As followers of Jesus, tithing is a significant component of our spiritual practice. But first, let’s clarify what tithing is not before we discuss what it is and why it matters. Tithing is not a mandate from God, it is not a way to obtain God’s favor or blessings, and it is not a means of generating wealth for the church.
What does the Bible say about Tithing?
What is tithing? Giving a percentage of one’s income to the church or those in need is known as tithing. The biblical practice of tithing has its roots in the agricultural economy of ancient Israel, where the word “tithe” literally translates as “tenth.” Tithes were used to protect the community’s most vulnerable members, particularly widows and orphans, and to support the community’s religious work.
The Old Testament makes the clearest mentions of tithing in Leviticus 27:30–33 and Deuteronomy 14:22–23, where God commands tithing. The prevalent belief was that God owned the first fruits of the harvest from the land. Returning to God what belonged to and came from God was an act of obedience. It was more of an awareness that all we have originates from and belongs to God than a “sacrifice” of one’s income.
The prophet Malachi underscores the idea that these first fruits belong to God. “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). In Biblical times, offerings were donations made in addition to the primary 10% tithe.
What does Jesus say about tithing?
In the New Testament, Jesus speaks about tithing in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” Jesus chastises the religious authorities of his day for being more focused on the letter of the law (tithing) than the spirit of the law (justice, mercy, and faith).
Similarly, in Mark 12:41-44, it appears that when Jesus told his disciples to see a widow giving her last bit of money in the Temple, he implicitly criticized the religious leaders for neglecting their responsibilities to care for the widows. Why is it that the widow has so little? The tithes of everyone else were supposed to be supporting her!
What is the meaning of tithing today?
While tithing originates in the agricultural economy of antiquity, its underlying philosophy is still valid today. As stewards of God’s resources, we are called to acknowledge that everything we have is a gift and that we are to give back a portion of our income to the church and those in need. One way to get involved in the church’s work and God’s kingdom is by tithing.
What is the difference between tithes and offerings?
Traditionally, a tithe is a specific portion of one’s income (10%) that is contributed to the church. Any sum of money given to the church is considered an offering. During the offertory in worship, many congregations refer to giving God our “tithes and offerings.”
Making our offerings is about giving money and our time, talents, and resources. What would it mean to contribute 10% of your time and talents in service? Tithing is an act of worship to God and a way of living a generous and selfless life.
Why should we give to the church?
Why should we donate to the church, then? We can assist in the work of God’s kingdom by giving to the church. The church’s mission is to be a source of healing, hope, and light in the world. Giving to the church makes it possible for it to carry out this task. Our mission is to assist God in conveying the good news and assisting those in need. Giving to the church is ultimately a means for us to thank God for everything God has done for us.
It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa (1910-97), Catholic missionary to India
What if we can’t afford 10%?
But what if we can’t afford to give 10% of our income? Sharing what we can from a joyful heart matters most. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” It’s not about the amount, it’s about the attitude.
Start somewhere and aim to increase your percentage every year until you reach a whole tithe. Setting aside a specified amount of your salary each month and sending it to the church is a straightforward way to start tithing. Additionally, you can set up automatic giving on the church’s website or through your bank.
Giving is more than a responsibility—it is a privilege; more than an act of obedience—it is evidence of our faith.” — William Arthur Ward (1921-94)
Tithing and giving offerings is a Spiritual Practice
Tithing is a spiritual discipline and a financial gift to the church. We are reminded that all we have is a gift from God and that we are responsible for taking care of these gifts as we offer a percentage of our income. By tithing, we can create a heart of thankfulness and an understanding that everything we have belongs to God.
Additionally, tithing encourages us to let go of our dependence on money and put our faith in God’s provision. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, says Jesus in Matthew 6:33. We demonstrate our faith in God’s supply and dedication to God’s kingdom when we donate a percentage of our money to the church.
Tithing is a way of training our hearts in generosity, and we cultivate gratitude, trust, and a sense of participation in the work of God’s kin-dom. It is about shifting our focus from what we have to how we can make a difference.
Giving reveals what is important to us.
What is genuinely significant to us is demonstrated through our contributions to the church. It displays our priorities and where our hearts are. We express our love for the church and the work it accomplishes by giving a portion of our money to the church.
Giving to the church can also show where we stand in relation to the values of the wider world. Giving to the church is a means to express our commitment to something bigger than ourselves in a culture that frequently prizes financial prosperity and the amassing of possessions. When everyone else is clutching and grabbing, we find the blessings of learning that giving is more blessed than receiving. When we give, we foster a sense of joy and peace by recognizing that we are blessed to be a blessing to others.
Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” — Billy Graham, American evangelist