Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Biblical Doctrine of Tithing

     The word "tithe" simply means "one-tenth." Abraham, after defeating the armies of four pagan kings, gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek "the priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18-20), and later his grandson Jacob committed ten percent of his surplus to the Lord (Genesis 28:22). The tithing enjoined on the Israelites under the Law of Moses called for one-tenth of the increase of their crops, herds and flocks (Leviticus 27:30, 32, 34).1 Note that the Mosaic tithing system involved food, not money. When the distance was too far to transport one’s animals or crops, the goods could be exchanged for money on the front end of the journey, but the funds were then to be used on the other end to buy the food required for the tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
     The tithes (food products) were to be distributed among the tribe of Levi, inclusive of the priests (Numbers 18:21, 23, 26).2 The Levites consisted of the descendants of Kohath, including the family of Aaron and his sons who comprised the priesthood (Exodus 28:1–29:35) and others who were responsible for the sacred tabernacle service (Numbers 3:27-32; 4:4-15; 7:9), as well as the descendants of Gershon (Numbers 3:21-26) and Merari (Numbers 3:33-37), who were responsible for other religious duties.
     Why were the tithes to be given to the Levites? The twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28) were to each receive an inheritance of land in Canaan, but the tribe of Levi was the only tribe not to receive a land inheritance (Joshua 13:7–19:48). In order for the Levites to invest their time and energies in spiritual service to God and to God’s people, tithing was necessary to support them and their families (Numbers 18:20-31).3
     Is the law of tithing still functioning in the Christian era? Since there has been a change of both the Levitical priesthood and the law (Hebrews 7:5, 12),4 we are no longer under this old Jewish arrangement (Galatians 3:24-25).5 Seeing that tithing was the means of supplying food for the Jewish priests and Levites, the service of whom is now obsolete, this is clearly not something in which New Testament Christians are expected to participate.
     Christianity is far superior to the old Jewish system (Hebrews 8:1-13). Our ultimate example of giving is God himself (James 1:17),6 exemplified through his Son Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:3-4).7 Accordingly, disciples of the Lord are to give willingly, liberally, sacrificially, and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 12; 9:7).8 Those who give themselves to full-time ministry are to be supported by the free-will offerings of fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 9:3-14).9 Under Christ’s new-covenant system, we are not limited to a set percentage but are expected to regularly give according to our ability and level of prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).10And the beauty of this New Testament plan is the simple fact that it is impossible to out-give God!11
–Kevin L. Moore

Additional Scripture References:
1. Numbers 18:26, 28; Deuteronomy 14:22-23; 2 Chronicles 31:5-6; Nehemiah 10:34-39; 13:5; cf. Malachi 1:1; 3:10; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42.
2. Deuteronomy 14:27, 29; 26:12; Nehemiah 10:37, 38; 13:5.
3. Exodus 1:1-6; Numbers 1:47-53; 18:23; 26:62; Deuteronomy 10:9; 14:27, 29; 18:1-8.
4. Hebrews 7:18; 10:1, 9; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Colossians 2:14.
5. Galatians 2:16; 3:19; Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:15; 2 Corinthians 3:2-16.
6. John 3:16, 27; Acts 17:25; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 9:15.
7. Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28.
8. Matthew 20:25-28; Romans 12:1-2; 15:26-27; 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, 11, 12, 19; 9:2, 5; Galatians 6:6-10.
9. Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:7; Romans 15:24; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:18.
10. Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:12; Ephesians 4:28; cf. Proverbs 3:9.
11. Matthew 6:24-34; Mark 10:27-31; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11; Ephesians 2:20; Philippians 4:19.

Addendum: Tithes included (1) Levitical = 10% to Levites, who gave 1% to priests (Numbers 18:21-28; Nehemiah 10:37-38); (2) Feasts = annual Jerusalem festivals (Deuteronomy 12:1-19; 14:22-26); (3) the Poor = every third year (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13); (4) Civil (1 Samuel 8:14-17).

Related Posts: Is the Law of Moses Still Binding?The Sunday Collection


  1. There were three separate tithes commanded by God. You are mixing them together, and they each had a different definition, instructions, and purpose.

    Leviticus 27:30-33 defines this tithe as a tenth of crops and animals in herds and flocks.
    Numbers 18 gives the ordinances, or instructions, for this tithe, and commands this tithe be taken to the Levites.
    Purpose of this tithe: to support the Levitical Priesthood.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-27: aka The Festival Tithe - a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take to the yearly feasts.
    Purpose of this tithe: “that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always”

    Deuteronomy 14:28-29: aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe - a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.
    Purpose of this tithe: to feed the poor.

    1. Thank you, Gary, for this clarification. The article was not intended to be a detailed examination of tithing but a simple overview and brief summary emphasizing its limited applicability and fulfillment. But your comments are a helpful supplement.

  2. Those who do not read the bible...but study only what other people say....and isolated texts refering to 'tithes' conclude wrongly that there were 3 tithes.

    The Levites were only 2.2% of Isreal's population see Numbers 1-4 ...that is why they only received the tithe every third year

    The Bible only ever refers to THE tithe...not 'three tithes'

    A tithe is 10%...not 23% as Gary carelessly claims!

    Those who insert words like 'Levitical' tithe...and 'Festival' tithe....and 'Poor' tithe so at their peril...God warns in Deut 4 :1-2 that we are NOT to add to or subtract form HIS word.

    The ONLY tithe that was given to the Levites was the THIRD years the following text which conclusively says ALL the tithe of the third year was that which was given to the Levites...and NOT a separate tithe EVERY year

    Deut 26:12-14

    12 "When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year — the year of tithing — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the LORD your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. NKJV

    'ALL the tithe of the third year'...not the first part...or second or third tithe...was given to the LEVITES AND the poor (this was NOT the poor tithe only as Gary claims)

    This was 'THE HOLY tithe'...not a second or third tithe...but THE tithe. It was THE HOLY per Lev 27:30 and 32

    This was according to 'ALL God's commandments' there was NO OTHER TITHE commanded

    This tithe was NOT in addition to another tithe...because 'NONE of God's commands were forgotten' when you gave the Third Years tithe.

    When you did this in the Third had done 'ALL that God had commanded you'...(not only one tithe in three as Gary claims)

    When God repeats this THREE times that this is ALL HE REQUIRED ... and people still teach that there were 3 tithes we have to wonder what their agenda is?

    Chris (Tithing

    1. Numbers 18:26, "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: 'When you take from the children of Israel THE TITHES which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of THE TITHE." [no discernable difference between "the tithes" (plural) and "the tithe" (singular)]
      Deuteronomy 14:22, "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces YEAR BY YEAR."
      Nehemiah 10:35-39, "to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruits of all trees, YEAR BY YEAR, to the house of the LORD ... the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities ..."
      Deuteronomy 14:28-29, "At the end of every third year ... the Levite ... AND the stranger AND the fatherless AND the widow ..."
      Deuteronomy 26:11-13, "... the Levite AND the stranger ... the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, AND the widow ... the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, AND the widow ..." [the Levites were not to be neglected every third year, but the stranger, fatherless and widow were to be included every third year]