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Biblical Tithing: Questions and Answers June 30, 2014

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Tithing has become a foundation in most churches yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied terms in the Christian lexicon today. Most people will also claim they know what tithing is yet have never studied the subject in any detail. Many therefore have a perception of tithing based on tradition rather than grounded in Biblical truth. I therefore set out below a number of questions and answers concerning the tithe as set out under the Mosaic law to help clear up some of the confusion and misconceptions around the subject.

1. What is a tithe?
A tithe is a tenth meaning a tenth part or every tenth one. (Lev 27:30-34)

2. Is this the same as 10%?
No. E.g., if the tither was giving a tenth of livestock from his 50 cows a tenth would be 5 but if he was giving a tenth from 45 this would only amount to 4 because he cannot give 4.5 livestock which is what 10% would equate to.

3. Was the tithe from income?
No. A tithe was a tenth of the increase of agricultural produce and livestock in the land of ancient Israel (Canaan) – i.e., what the land brought forth. God gave the land as a gift but reserved a tenth part of what the Land brought forth for Himself. So it was not a tenth of what you made but a tenth of what He first gave (Lev 27:30-34).

4. Could tithes be given in the form of money?
No, not strictly speaking. Although money was readily available, the commandments required food produce and livestock. If you wanted to redeem or buy back the tithe you had to add a fifth (or 20%) of the monetary value on top of the actual monetary value (Lev 27:30-34).

5. Was the tithe the first 10%?
No. It was not a percentage (see 2) and it was NOT the first tenth either. Since a first fruit of the harvest (e.g. grain) was to be given to the priest first (Ex 23:19, Ez 44:30) then the tithe could not have been first. Similarly, the tithe of livestock was not the first tenth but every tenth one that passed under the rod (Lev 27:30-34). The idea that the tithe is “10% off the top” as many pastors teach is not supported by scripture.

6. To whom were tithes given?
The nation of Israel comprising the eleven tribes gave tithes to the Levite tribe (one tribe which made up the twelve). This is because the Levite tribe did not get a portion of the Land so God gave them the tenth part He reserved for Himself as their inheritance (see 3, Num 18:21, Heb 7:5). The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithes they received to the priests (Num 18:28). Note the priests did not get all the tenth in Israel – only a tenth of what the Levites received.

7. Who were required to give tithes?
Only those who tended land and owned/looked after livestock were required to tithe to the Levites who in turn tithe to the priests (Lev 27:30-34, Neh 10:37, Num 18:28).

8. Was the tithe the best of what you had?
No. If you were giving livestock you were not allowed to examine whether it was good or bad – you had to give the tenth one that passed under the rod regardless of its condition (Lev 27:30-34). It was the Levites who were then required to give a tithe which constituted the best of the tithes they received to the priests – the Lord’s heave offering (see 7, Num 18:29-30)

9. Were people of other professions therefore not required to tithe, such as artisans, carpenters, brick makers etc?
When God gave Israel the land He reserved a tenth part of the increase that the Land brought forth for Himself, which He gave the Levites for their inheritance because they did not get a share of the Land (see 6). There was no requirement to tithe money nor were people of these professions required to tithe of their wood, metal, cloths, bricks etc. The key thing to note is that God never reserved a tenth part of anyone’s income for Himself. He reserved only a tenth part of the increase of the Land which HE gave in the first place. This was then to be given to the Levites who did not get a share of the Land. If you tended land alongside another profession then you were also required to tithe from the Land but not your other income. For that matter you couldn’t “tithe your time” either.

10. Were people of other professions therefore not required to give of their income (money) to the upkeep of the priests and the temple then?
The temple or tabernacle had a treasury where money was offered to (1 Chron 29:8, Neh 7:70-71, Josh 6:19, 24, Ezr 2:69). This was separate and apart from the “storehouse” which housed the tithe (which was food produce, Neh 10:37-38, 2 Chron 31:6-12, Mal 3:10). Whilst the people also gave money offerings (from their income), wood offerings (Neh 10:34), produce and animal offerings etc these were separate and apart from the tithes (see 1 Chron 22:15, Ex 35:30-35, 36:2-4, for some of the different professions that were in Israel).

11. Is tithing for today – should the church tithe?
The tithing ordinance (Mal 3:7) was abolished (Eph 2:15, Col 2:14) when Jesus went to the cross therefore the church is not under this law.

12. Do the scriptures contradict themselves?
This question though not specific to the tithing question needs to be asked if we are to truly answer the question of whether tithing is for today. It is clear that if scriptures say that the law (and ordinances) have been abolished that it cannot also be saying that we are required to observe the tithing law at the same time.

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