GracEmail subscribers in several countries and in different denominations have asked what the Bible teaches about tithing, and whether Christians are required to give one-tenth of their income to the church.
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The Law of Moses required the Jews to set aside a tithe (one-tenth) of their agricultural produce to support the Levites, the priestly tribe that did not receive a land inheritance. The Levites then gave a tenth from their tenth to support the priests (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21-29). The tithe also supported aliens, orphans and widows throughout Israel and provided a feast to celebrate God’s goodness in harvest-time (Deut. 14:22-29). Whether this was a second tithe or a further use of the first is not clear. The Israelites additionally gave special offerings from flock and field as they were moved by conscience and by generosity (Lev. 1-6).
The prophets rebuked the Jews when they did not pay their tithes, which was equal to “robbing God” (Mal. 3:7-12). Jesus approved of the Jews paying tithes as the Law of Moses commanded, although he denounced some who scrupulously tithed their tiniest herbs but overlooked doing justice and loving God (Lk. 11:42). The New Testament does not specify a percentage for Christians to give in support of God’s work or to help the poor. When Paul was collecting one major charitable offering, he urged his converts to give purposefully and cheerfully, based on their own prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:7).
Rather than requiring tithing, the New Testament exhorts Christians to give ourselves to God with all that we have, acknowledging that everything we enjoy is God’s and is to be used to his glory (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:3-6). This does not mean that we put it all in a collection basket, however, or that all our charitable or financial offerings must go through the church. I have always tithed personally because I thought it was a good measuring stick for giving, but I can only suggest it and not require it for others.