Tithing literally means "tenth." Sometime people will wonder how much to "tithe." Its sort of like saying "how much should I tenth?" The tithe is a tenth.
Many people believe that tithing began during the dispensation of the Law. However, scripture shows that tithing began before the Law. The first two times tithing appears are in Genesis:
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,
19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
In this first case we see Abraham tithe following a great victory where his enemies were miraculously defeated. Tithing and victory are often closely related.
22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."
Here we see Jacob giving a tithe at the first church Bethel where the first open heavens were. We see that from the beginning of church that tithing was an integral part of the worship of God.
Tithing in the Law
During the time of the Law there were actually three tithes. The first one was the Levitical Tithe. Because the tribe of Levi did not recieve an inheritance in the land they were to recieve a tenth of what everyone else made. The Levite was to keep himself pure from working in the world and decicated to serving God.
30 "'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.
32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock-- every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod-- will be holy to the LORD.
24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.'"
The festival tithe was another 10% that the people had to set aside to buy food and wine to celebrate festivals. God loves it when His people eat and drink and remember His goodness. In the New Testament we do this with the Lord's supper.
11 Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name-- there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.
12 And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Every third year the people were to set aside a tithe for the poor. This makes the total tithe under the Law to be 33.334% every year.
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns,
29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Tithing in the New Testament
The first Christians were Jewish and had a clear understanding of God and His ways. Here we see the writer of Hebrews discussing tithing.
Hebrews 7:5-10 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people?that is, their brothers?even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
Jesus Himself affirms the practice of tithing.
3"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices?mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law?justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
The apostle Paul confirms that, like the Levites of the Old Testament, those who serve God by preaching the Gospel should be the recipients of the tithe.
1 Corinthians 9:13-14 and says,
Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
Some people have been confused about how much to give by the scripture in 2 Corinthians 9:7. However, like the tithe for the poor given every three years under the Law this passage concerns freewill giving to the poor and NOT to the tithe itself.
Giving to the poor
2 Corinthians 9:7:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Here we see Paul again sharing that those who preach the Word are to receive for their work.
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
Again, Paul mentions again the importance of the tithe in supporting the Elders. In today's society when we hear the word elder we think of board member sometimes. In Scripture an Elder is what today is called a pastor.
1 Timothy 5:17,18
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."
Like all Christians I have had to work through what is the correct attitude and actions that Christians should take concerning giving. I read that God loves a cheerful giver and decided that since I could not give cheerfully God would rather have me not give. I found that this was not satisfying and that God did not keep the devourer from my door. When I was a youth pastor I was at a "Word of Faith" church and thought that if I gave more I would get more. I did give more and I did get more but found that I had to have the right heart attitude as well.
My first three churches supported me full time but it was a hardship on them so I wanted to work outside of the church to support myself. However, I found that God wanted me to learn to trust Him for my income and to keep myself pure. Giving and receiving is a never ending learning process for those who seek to follow God.
As it turns out, Christians in America make 9% more than non-Christians so we see that God allows us to hold His money for a day or two until we give it back to Him. It is a trust walk. Can God trust you with that 10%? If you think that you are not blessed by your giving just come to the Philippines with me and you will see that you are really blessed. Giving and receiving are two of the most powerful relationships that we have with God. My advice to you is don't miss out!
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse the whole nation of you because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
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."
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
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. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!