What Does the Bible Say About the Tithe or Tithing?
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Bible require me to give 10% of my
income to my church?
- Should I tithe based on gross or net income?
- Am I obligated
to give to my church even if I am having trouble paying my bills?
- What does the Bible say about church offerings?
- Will I receive blessings if I give "seed money" to a ministry?
"Tithe" means a tenth or 10 percent. The tithing system described in the Bible was
designed specifically to meet
the needs of the religious, economic and political system of ancient Israel. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel, except
the tribe of Levi, initially received an allotment of
land in the promised land of Canaan. The Levites were assistants to Israel's
priests and were supported by a tithe offering from other eleven tribes. All
families of those eleven tribes were to give a tenth of all produce, flocks, and
cattle to the Levites. In turn, the Levites were to give a tenth of that to
support the priests (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-28). Tithes were also used to meet the needs of
foreigners, orphans and widows. (Deuteronomy 26:12-13)
In addition, everyone was to be generous with those in need:
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land
that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward
your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.
(NIV, Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
There are several mentions of tithing in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23,
Luke 11:42, 18:12; Hebrews 7:5-9), but all refer to the Old Testament system.
The New Testament does not give any specific rules about tithing, and most aspects
of the Old Testament Law do not apply to Christians. (See
What Does the Bible Say About the Old Testament
Jesus seems to support the tithe in Matthew 23:23-24, but these
verses are primarily intended as a criticism of the Pharisees as hypocrites who obeyed the
letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. They were so meticulous about
the law that they
tithed even the small amounts of spices they grew in household gardens, but they ignored the more
important matters of justice, mercy and faith!
However, Jesus made it clear that we are obligated to be generous to those in
need (Matthew 25:31-46).
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants
to borrow from you. (NIV, Matthew 5:42)
Giving is to be done cheerfully, rather than as an obligation (2 Corinthians
9:6-7), and not for the purpose of public recognition (Matthew 6:1-4). The right amount
to give may be more or less than ten percent, depending on one's circumstances (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22, 21:1-4, Hebrews
13:16, 1 John 3:17). Generous giving is an acknowledgment that everything we have
is a gift from God, and is to be used in His service (Luke 12:33, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy
6:17-19, James 1:17, 1:27, 1 Peter 4:10).
Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, we are urged to share
generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to us:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift
is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving,
let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him
encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let
him do it cheerfully. (NIV, Romans 12:6-8)
Does the Bible require me to give 10 percent of my income to my church? Should my
offering be computed on gross or net income?
The Bible does not require Christians to give any certain percentage. Modern day questions
about what percentage we should give and whether it should be computed on gross
income, net income or wealth are not answered in the Bible. Nor does the Bible
tell us how much of our giving should go to a church and how much to help the
needy. (See What Does the Bible Say About Generosity
and Duty to the Poor?)
In Biblical times Christians typically held their
meetings in private homes or public spaces (Acts 2:46, 12:12) and did not
have significant operating expenses. However, modern churches do need money to pay for
salaries, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, maintenance, supplies and other
expenses. Churches also need volunteers for many ministries and tasks. The apostle Paul urged
Christians to diligently use their God-given gifts to support the work of the
Church (Romans 12:4-8).
Am I obligated to give to my church even if I am having trouble paying my bills?
No. We must pray and listen to our consciences and consider the needs of
ourselves and our families (1 Timothy 5:8) when deciding how much to give.
No one should feel pressured to give a
certain amount of money or a certain percentage of income to a church or other ministry.
Will I receive blessings if I give a donation or "seed money" to a church or ministry?
No. There is no requirement in the Bible to give "seed money" to a church, preacher or
and no promise that any wealth or other blessings of any kind will come as a result.
Verses like Matthew 13:1-9 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 are sometimes cited to
support requests for seed money or other donations, but the blessings promised
here are spiritual blessings, not material blessings.
The Bible does urge us to be generous with our wealth and time. However, any
claim that wealth, health, good fortune or other blessings will come as
a result of a donation should be looked at with suspicion.