Everything you always wanted to know about tithing, but were afraid to ask
1. What is tithing?
Tithing is the practice of returning 1/10 (one tenth) (a tithe) of your income to the Lord.
2. Where does the idea of tithing come from?
From the Bible. Abraham, “the father of the faithful,” gave a tithe to the priest, Melchizedek, who represents Christ. Jacob vowed to tithe all of his income in grateful response for God’s covenant and provision. When Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai, the tithe was commanded. When the children of Israel started to fudge on the tithe, God placed His people under a curse and sent prophets to reprimand the people for not giving the Lord His due.
1 Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:20
2 Of all that you give me I will give you a tenth. Genesis 39:22
3 A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from trees, belongs to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30
4 Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, “How do we rob You?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing Me. Bring the whole tithe. Malachi 3:8-10
3. Is tithing commanded in the New Testament?
Jesus affirmed the tithe, but he gave special commendation only to those who exceeded the tithe with trusting, loving, cheerful exuberance. Tithing was assumed – a self-evident duty – not something to increase human pride.
5 Woe to you Pharisees, because you gave God a tenth … but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Luke 11:42
6 Biblical narratives: Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector, Luke 19:10; The Widow’s Offering, Luke 21:1-4; Jesus Anointed at Bethany, Matthew 26:6-13
4. Does the command to tithe contradict the Gospel – the central truth that salvation is not achieved by keeping the law, but is a free gift of God’s grace received by faith?
Commanding the tithe does not contradict the Gospel any more than do God’s commands to honor your parents or not commit adultery, etc. We are not saved by tithing or by keeping any other commandment. But the fact that we are saved by grace increases our desire to proclaim and follow the revealed will of God.
5. What promises does God connect to the tithe?
God gets very excited when people show such faith in and love for Him, and He promises always to return in multiples that which we give to Him.
7 Bring the whole tithe … Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10
8 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
9 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
6. How can I tithe if I can barely pay my bills?
People often overcommit, spending money they don’t have to buy things they can’t afford and don’t need. God encourages us to realize that we owe first and foremost to God. Payment of the tithe is a way of acknowledging God’s primary claim on our life and that everything we have really belongs to God. Many tithing Christians have testified that when they gave the Lord His tenth right off the top, the other bills somehow got paid, and usually, with more left over.
10 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:10
11 Bible Narrative: The Widow at Zarephath 1 Kings 17:7-16
7. Should I figure the tithe on my gross or net income?
One response I have heard to this questions is, “Do you want to be blessed on the gross or the net?” It is true that taxes can take an awfully big bite out of income; however, tax losses are offset, at least to some extent, by tax benefits, such as police and fire protection, free schooling, the public library, national defense, etc., etc.… In addition, most people’s income is also padded in many tangible and intangible ways, for example, health insurance, pensions, use of company property, and other benefits. You will probably not be able to determine with precision what an exact tithe is, but the important thing is that you have the right attitude, which puts God first (even ahead of the government) and gives with a generosity and cheerfulness that exceeds the level of a legalistic tither.
12 How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Psalm 116:12,14
13 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
8. What if I want to give more, but my spouse doesn’t?
Sadly, many couples are not experiencing the joy of walking together in the joy of mutual devotion to Christ. Natural man resists giving anything more than a token amount to church or charity. If you are yoked to an unbeliever or one who is not regularly hearing and responding to God’s life-changing Word, you will have great difficulty doing what you want. We cannot force what is meant to be a response of faith and love. However, you may be able to insist that you tithe from your contribution to the total family income. (By the way, the labors of a full-time housewife and homemaker with children have been calculated at upwards of $50,000.)
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the Living God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
15 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. 1 Peter 3:1
9. Should I start tithing immediately, or can I gradually grow into it?
Most bad habits are broken, and good habits are formed by a decision to go “cold turkey” and embrace full compliance with God’s will. Ask any tither and you will most likely discover it began with a decision of repentance and faith, not of graduated steps of lesser disobedience. Breaking Satan’s strongholds and experiencing God’s power in our lives comes from wholehearted, not lukewarm commitment.
16 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
17 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in your view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
10. What if I am already tithing?
Great! There is no reason to stop growing in your exercise of faith and response of love. If you have discovered the Spirit-given joy of cheerful generosity, you have already begun to view the tithe as a launching pad, not a ceiling. Christ motivates to excellence, not to minimum requirements. If you can, why not make it a goal to give an increasing percentage of your total income each year?
18 Not that I have already … been made perfect, but I press on … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
19 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
20 And now brothers we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability … See that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:1-8
11. What is the ultimate motivation for tithing?
The promises of our heavenly Father’s faithful provision and the love of God which sent His one and only Son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay for all our sins and to rise again with the promise that all who put their trust in Him receive the free gift of forgiveness of sins, a transformed life on Earth, and eternal glory in Heaven. God gave His indescribable gift not so that New Testament saints would shrink back from what Old Testament saints did under the law, but so that under grace we could be set free to do much more with exuberance.
21 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
22 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
23 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that’s at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
24 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
… This is most certainly true …
Note: All Bible references are from the New International Version of the Bible, 1986 Edition