A much debated subject in Christian circles today, is whether we need or need not tithe. Some say it is one of God’s Commandments. Others say that it is an important act of obedience, while this controversial subject is not talked about directly in other assemblies.
It is a well known fact that “Tithing” was instituted with the Law given through Moses (Mosaic Law). The same congregations & denominations that believe and teach that the Law in the Old Testament is “done away with”, somehow still enforce “tithing”. Even the ones who do not enforce Tithing, still stick to the belief that it is valid for today unlike the other Old Testament Laws.
Today, we will read into this topic and get to the bottom of the “Biblical Tithe”, answering the questions “whether we need to tithe” and if we do, “who do we give our tithes to?” (Please note that this study is not intended to be used as an excuse to stop giving to Our Heavenly Father. He neither requires or desires to collect material treasures that we bring to Him. On the contrary, this study is done to better understand the Biblical Tithe system and whether and how we should give a portion back to our God who supplies all our needs)
Tithing before the Law of Moses
The Truth is that Tithing is even mentioned before the Mosaic Law. Just like “Animal Sacrifices” and “Clean/Unclean Animal separation” which were part of the Mosaic Law; are mentioned before the giving of the Law, in the book of Genesis, Tithing was also done many years before Moses.
In Gen 14:20, it is mentioned that Abraham gave tithes of all he had to Melchizedek, the priest of God Almighty.
In Gen 28:22, Jacob also makes a promise to God, to give a tenth of all that God gives him.
The Commandment of Tithing, through the Law of Moses
Before we get into the Laws regarding Tithing, it is necessary for all of us to understand a few fundamental aspects of the priestly system which tithing was part of.
- God instituted the Tribe of Levi to work in the Temple/Tabernacle that was instituted after Moses (Num 1:49-54, 3:6-10, 18:2-4)
- Aaron was also of the tribe of Levi (Num 26:59, Jos 21:10)
- God chose Aaron and his sons to be Priests in the Temple/Tabernacle forever (Exo 27:21, 28:1,41,43, 29:9, 40:13,15, 1Chr 23:13)
- All Levites were not Priests. Only the line of Aaron could be appointed as Priests (Num 16:8-11, 1Chr 6:48,49, 23:28, 2Chr 35:14, 2Chr 13:9,10). Even John the baptist descended from the lineage of Aaron, just as his father Zecheriah (Luke 1:5 – compare the course of Abijah/Abia 1Chr 24:10,19)
- Everyone from the tribe of Levi, (other than Aaron and his descendents who were the priests) did all the other work in the Temple/Tabernacle (1Chr 23:27-32)
- The tribe of Levi did not have any inheritance in the Land (Num 18:23, Deut 10:8,9, 18:1,2, Jos 13:14,33)
- Levites were only given cities to live in (which they did not own), in each of the portions of land divided amongst the other tribes (Num 35:1-3 & 7-8)
There are 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures
Lev 27:30-33 is the first time the “Tithe” is specifically spoken of, by God Almighty. In this portion of Scripture, God mentions that the Tithe or Tenth of everything, whether seed, fruit, herd or flock, that the people “Israel” procures from the Land, which God gives them, is owned by Him. God says that it is also Holy/Consecrated to Him. But there is no further instruction regarding the Tithe mentioned in the Book of Leviticus. Accounting all of Scripture, we see that there was not 1, but 4 types of “Tithes” and specific instructions regarding these. Let us look at the 4 types of Tithes and try to clearly understand this Commandment regarding the Tithe.
1. The Levitical Tithe
The tithe which is commonly known by all, is actually the Tithe which was separated for the Levites. This Tithe was to be brought by all of Israel, and was to be given to the Levites. The Tithe which was brought was the inheritance set apart by God for the Levites (Num 18:21-24). All the tithes were given unto the Levites (Neh 12:44). It was the portion of the Levite (Neh 12:44), and was supposed to be divided amongst the Levites (Neh 13:10-13). God warns His people not to forsake the Levite (Deut 12:19). The Levites enjoyed the Tithes and whatever was left was stored in the treasury (2Chr 31:10). The fact that the Tithe went to the Levite, is even mentioned in the New Testament (Heb 7:5)
2. The Tithe given to the Aaronic Priests
God commanded that the Levites who received the Tithe would be required to give a tenth of it to Sons of Aaron, who were the priests (Num 18:25-32). This was also known as the “Tithe of Tithes” (Neh 10:38) It was the payment that they and their families got for the service they did in the Tabernacle (Num 18:31). The Tithe of the Tithe, that the priests who were in the lineage of Aaron received, was the best part of the Tithe which was acquired by the Levites who served the Priests (Num 18:29,32)
3. Tithe given to the Poor
On top of the Tithe brought to the Levites, every third year was also called the “Year of Tithing”(Deut 26:12). Every third year there was a separate Tithe which was supposed to be brought and given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. It was basically given to the less fortunate, the poor and the people who could not fend for themselves (Deut 14:28,29). This Tithe is also mentioned by the Prophet Amos who talks to the idolatrous Israelites in a sarcastic manner (Amos 4:4)
4. The Tithe separated for God’s Appointed Times/Festivals/Feasts
God’s Appointed times which are commonly known as Feasts of God, which are mentioned in Leviticus 23, required everyone to come to Jerusalem 3 times a year (Exo 23:14,15,17, Deut 16:16, 2Chr 8:13). God specifically commanded everyone to bring a Tithe, that they themselves would use to celebrate before God (Deut 14:22-27). God wanted this Tithe to be used for rejoicing before Him (Deut 12:6,7). This Tithe could be only used to rejoice in Jerusalem along with the Levite (Deut 12:17,18). It could not be used in any other place.
Tithes were supposed to be brought to Jerusalem only
Just as no sacrifices or offerings could be made anywhere other than at the Temple/Tabenacle in Jerusalem, Tithes were also supposed to be brought to the place that God chose to “place His Name” (Deut 12:5,6,11, 14:23). Jerusalem is the only place that God placed His divine name Forever (1Kin 9:3, 11:36, 2Kin 21:4,7). It is called God’s Habitation (Isa 33:10, Ezr 7:15, 2Chr 29:6)
Is the Tithe valid for today?
The first thing to notice according to the 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures, is that the Tithes that could be valid for us are only the “Levitical Tithe”, “Poor Tithe” & “Feast Tithe”. The Priests Tithe was a Tithe made by the Levites, and is excluded to us unless you are from the tribe of Levi. The “Levitical Tithe” was to be given to the Levites for their livelihood, as they did not have an inheritance. The “Poor Tithe” was to be brought to the Temple/Tabernacle in Jerusalem and distributed amongst the poor. And the “Feast Tithe” was to be enjoyed by oneself at the Feasts/Appointed times when they came to the Temple/Tabernacle in Jerusalem.
The problem today, with these 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scripture is, that the Temple built in Jerusalem is not there anymore. In the same manner that no Sacrifices or offerings can and has not been made at the Temple, since it’s destruction in 70AD, Tithing also cannot be done in any other place according to the Commandments of God. But according to all the Prophets and the Book of Revelations, The Jerusalem Temple will be built again. On such a day, the Tithes according to the Scriptures would be valid again.
Mixing Tithes with Offerings
Most Christian circles have mixed up the Offering (known as the “freewill offering” in the Old Testament) with Tithing, saying Tithing is valid for today, while it is actually not. Even if Tithing was valid, Pastors, Ministers & Leaders of congregations cannot receive the Tithe which God has separated for the Tribe of Levi. While offerings were collected and received to help the poor or the preaching of the Gospel, nowhere did Paul or any other Author receive or approve of taking Tithes.
In fact, Paul himself says that whoever that serves should receive an offering, (1Cor 9:9-14) but that he has never written or asked for anything in return for his service (1Cor 9:15). Receiving or giving an Offering, is not wrong or against God’s Word at all, as Paul is clearly proving through the use of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Can anyone who serves God, request Tithes?
Some take the stance that whoever serves God should receive the Tithe making themselves equal to the Levites. But we see no such event taking place in the New Testament. The Tithe was specifically separated for the Levite, the Poor and all who came for the feasts. Even though there were many synagogues in the time of Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) and even afterwards, as well as many congregations at houses throughout the 1st Century Church, there is no indication that anyone excepted Tithes, other than the Levites who worked in the House of God in Jerusalem.
One of the proof texts used by many to say God wants you to Tithe, is Malachi 3:7-10. In this passage of Scripture Malachi prophesies to the Israelites saying they have robbed God by not giving the necessary Tithes and offerings. Verse 10 reads, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” As a piece of Scripture that is connected to a promise, we must first of all, ask a few important questions regarding this verse. 1)What is the Storehouse? 2)Why does God want food in His House? 3)What is God referring to as My House?
The Storehouse mentioned in this verse is the treasury of the Temple (Neh 10:38, 12:44). God does not require food to eat, but the reason He mentions food in His house is that the Levites who serve would be given all of this (as per His Commandment) so that they can keep on serving at the Temple without hindrance. And the place God mentions as “My House” is the Temple which was built for Him in Jerusalem. This verse, read in context cannot mean that God is ordering believers today, to give Tithes to their Church Leaders.
Giving to the Widow, the Fatherless and the Stranger
Out of the Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures, the only clear category of people who could receive it today would be the poor. Throughout the Scriptures right up to the writings of the Apostles, the people who cannot fend for themselves have been asked to be taken care of (Deut 24:19-21, Psa 146:9, Jer 7:6,7, Zec 7:10, Mal 3:5, James 1:27). Using the portion that is separated for God to help the poor and helpless could be the closest we could get to a Biblical Tithe, in this day and age. It is not only acceptable, but is also an act that is surely noticed by God and approved throughout the Bible (Acts 10:4, Mat 6:4, Luk 12:33, Acts 9:36, 24:17)
It is clear that no one can point to Scripture to prove that they should rightly receive a Tithe from anyone, as the 4 types of Tithes mentioned in Scripture were given to the Levites, Priests, Poor and whoever came to celebrate the feasts of Yehovah. Leader, Pastors & Ministers have no authority to request or insinuate that the Tithe must be given to them and the institution that they are part of, when there is a clear set of rules made by Our Heavenly Father regarding this ordinance.
If someone does want to give a Tenth of what they earn to a Minister or a leader, it would be considered an “Offering”, which is not the same as the Tithe mentioned in the Scriptures. This does not mean that we should not and cannot separate or give a Tenth of our earnings to the Poor or the people who serve God Almighty. It is important though to make these decisions with discernment and help the people who are in need, the most. The portion we give, whether big or small, whether it is one tenth or not, should be done with Love and obedience to Our Father, so that it brings praise to Him and Him alone.