The Christian Bible Reference Site

What Does the Bible Say About the Tithe or Tithing?

Frequently Asked Questions

Old Testament

"Tithe" means a tenth or 10 percent. The Old Testament law required that a tenth of all produce, flocks, and cattle be given to support the Levites (the priestly class in ancient Israel). In turn, the Levites were to give a tenth of that for support of the high priest (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-28).

An additional tithe, collected every three years, was to be used to meet the needs of the Levites, foreigners, orphans and widows. (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). Additional tithes were taken for festival purposes.

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)

New Testament

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 Law?)

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 amount to give is not necessarily ten percent (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, Christians are urged to share generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to them:

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)

There is nothing in the Bible saying we should give a certain amount or a certain percentage to a church.

Conclusion

The tithing rules in the Bible were based specifically on the religious and social system of ancient Israel and on an agricultural economy. 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. In today's world, 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 and to which organizations or individuals. No one should feel pressured to give a certain amount of money to a church or other ministry.

Also, there is no requirement in the Bible to give "seed money" to a church, preacher or ministry, and no promise that any blessings of any kind will come as a result.

Related article: What Does the Bible Say About Generosity and Duty to the Poor?

Previous page Bible FAQ - Contents Christian Bible Reference home page