Tithe Definition

Dictionary definition of tithing
There are many people that ask about the definition of the tithe. In the broadest sense, the tithe definition means a tenth of one’s increase – Deuteronomy 14:22. That is the simplest definition of the tithe accepted by a majority of the population. Although, there are many more branches of the definition that explain the tithe even further. For instance, some would say that a true tithe is given to the local church. Others debate on whether it is off your gross increase or your net increase. These branches, along with many more, of the tithing definition exist due to how one interprets specific scenarios in the bible. For example in Malachi 3:10, the tithe was delivered to the local storehouse, and in Proverbs 3:9 we are to honor the Lord with the first fruits of our increase.

Scholars and theologians constantly debate about the tithe definition. There is much debate largely because tithing was detailed in the Old Testament under the nation of Israel, and yet this prescription was not outlined for the Church in the New Testament. There seems to be many holes and many opportunities for personal interpretation of how we should prescribe the tithe into the New Testament Church.

The definition of the tithe was very simple and plainly laid out for Israel. They were to gather their harvest and count the tithe out from what they’ve gathered. For instance, if you had 100 apples, you must count them out from one-to-ten, and the tenth one you set aside for the Lord – Leviticus 27:32. As is stated in the previous verse, it did not matter if that tenth one was bruised or under-sized, you still set it aside. Note, that you set the tenth one aside, not the first one aside.

There were other rules under the tithe definition. First, the tithe generally went to the Levites, and in turn the levites gave a tenth of their tenth to the priestly line for the work of the temple. Next, there were generally three different “types” of the tithe. first, was the poor tithe – Deuteronomy 26:12. Second, was the feast tithe – Deuteronomy 14:22-23. Third, was the Levitical tithe – Numbers 18:24. Practically, the tithe included the poor and the Levites all the time, but those are generally how the tithe is categorized. The feast tithe was the most unique and was consumed by the whole nation of Israel as a feast celebration.

Most people argue that the total amount of tithes given by Israel equaled over 23%. I don’t follow that logic, just for the simple fact that when the bible says 10% of all your increase, generally it means just 10%. Maybe that’s too simple minded? I don’t know.

Now that we have an abridged version of the tithe definition for Israel, what about the definition for the Church? Truthfully, you are asking the wrong person. I feel the definition of the tithe for the church is far more complicated than the IRS tax code. Like i said above, the definition of tithing for the New Testament Church has many holes and opportunities for personal interpretation. I’m of the persuasion that it doesn’t belong in the Spirit-led Church anyway. I know. . . I know what you’re saying, how can the Church operate without the tithe? Well, we obviously know how to operate without Levites, so i think we can survive without their salary requirements.

The Church operates under the capacity of the Holy Spirit in tune with the principles of God’s word. I realize that we need to understand the definition of a principle but we’ll make that for another post. In the end, we should all give willingly, cheerfully and liberally.

I know this was a quick synopsis of the definition of tithing, but without writing a few chapters and without a few hours, this seems to work out fine. If anyone has any thoughts or ideas that i missed that describes the tithe definition, we need to hear them. Please share them below.

Jared Bartholomew is the author of www.tithing.com. There are over 300 articles written on research and reviews about tithing information.

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72 comments on “Tithe Definition
  1. Mike Harmon says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Mike Harmon

  2. D. Salomon says:

    I’m not sure I’m getting what you mean with the tithe not belonging in the “spirit-led” church. The New Testament doesn’t speak of the 10% because the first church gave everything for the establishment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See Acts 4:32-37…and beyond. 100% v. 10%, you decide. The Spirit leads us to greater purposeful giving.

  3. D. Salomon,
    You answered your own question. Tithing has no place in the Church when his people should be 100% devoted to greater purposeful giving.


  4. J Helms says:

    Okay, Just so I understand clearly. You are not saying that we should not be giving money to the church, you are saying that we should give what the spirit leads us to give not specfically ten percent?

  5. J Helms,
    Yes, you are correct about what i’m trying to say.

  6. Sisterlisa says:

    Can you please email me? Thank you so much!

  7. Enhance says:

    For more indepth definition of the tithe I recommend a book called “Tithing?”. It expounds on tithing as defined in the Old Testament, the misconception of Malachi 3, as well as, New Testament meaning concerning the tithe, according to the book of Corinthians.

  8. TruthSaves says:

    Thanks for the info. I have been tithing on a strict 10% of gross income basis as well as above and beyond for missions, expansion, etc. but I have been wanting to reduce my tithe because I have so much credit card debt to pay off. I guess I never took the time to find out what a New Testament believer should tithe. I mean I love giving towards the Lord’s work but the reason I was really breaking myself doing it was because I thought that I was simply obeying His command to give 10%. I am going to talk to my pastor tomorrow about it but based on conversations that I have had recently about the subject, I believe that you are right on about what the Bible teaches about tithing in the Church. Thanks again and God bless!

    • pastorlee says:

      seem as thought you where looking for away out of giving. I think you should think about it and pray about it. Jesus said that man should not live by bread along but every word that is written that sound like the old and new Testament.

      • pastorlee has advice you well, the people in new testament gave all they have and you are running away from paying 10percent. may be you should check your epenses. 

  9. enhance says:

    Hello Truthsaves, I really recommend a book titled “Tithing?” it’s titled with a question mark to allow the reader to sincerely consider the act of tithing that they commit themselves too. According to the book of Corinthians, New Testament believers are asked to give according to their hearts decision in order that their giving may be cheerful. Corinthians tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. We should never give grudgingly (with a heart not fully submissive to the purpose because we wish we could do otherwise with it like help someone in need) nor should we give of necessity (giving because we have a need that we are petitioning or having faith for God to fulfill). When giving is done with a cheerful, willing heart it grants God the opportunity to recognize your giving. For we know that God sees the heart of man. As a result we create an atmosphere to receive because we are in the spirit of joy. God can only dwell where He is exemplified. Like attracts like. Love attracts love. Cheerfulness attracts more cheerfulness… and so on. Be blessed! The book is called Tithing? get it, read it, be abundantly blessed because I surely was.

  10. boakye ebenezer says:

    I love your dfinition, my question is where are the levites now in our days, and who suppose to receive the tithes? thanks.

    • ENHANCE says:



  11. Boakye,
    It doesn’t seem that you read the blog post. The Church is a Spirit led entity that is guided by the instructions that the Holy Spirit gives. Our giving is led by Holy Spirit. The tithe no longer has a place in the New Testament Church.

    Our giving should be liberal, freewill, and sacrificial.

    – jared

  12. giovanni says:

    thanks for your definition about tithes.

    my question is “did i violate the tithes law if my tithes is divided into two? first half is given to my local church and the 2nd half is given to the main church? I am in abroad and we have an oureach here but one church. thanks and God bless you.

  13. Giovanni,
    You violated the tithes law if you did not give the tithe to a levitical priest that stored a tenth of your agricultural increase in a temple storehouse.

    If you read the whole post above, i stated that i do not believe the tithe is commanded for the Spirit led Church. I believe that we are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in regards to giving. Whether the holy Spirit establishes a giving standard in your life is not dependent upon what the old covenant commanded Israel to do.

    The tithe is not the tutor responsible for teaching God’s children how to give. His Spirit is responsible for guiding us, and it is our responsibility to listen and obey.

    – jared

  14. Steve says:

    This is a difficult topic & I do agree that tithe is mentioned in the old testament but Abraham was the 1st person to tithe & that was before the law & we are the children of Abraham or (children of faith). Your other statement as far as saying that the church is spirit led now as to say that the children of Israel were not spirit led is a mis-leading statement because God is Spirit & they were led by Him. The bottom line is that whatever we do for the Lord needs to be in faith not in law, but I do believe that tithing is still something that the children of God should do today.

    • Dwight says:

      If you are trying to say that because Abreham tithed before the Law then it is still in effect then you are rightly saying that evrything instituted before the Law is still in effect. I would also point out that the Jews lived “under the Law”.

  15. Steve,
    thanks for stopping by and adding your view.

    You make an interesting point about Israel being Spirit led. As a matter of fact during the wilderness journey they were being guided by a pillar of fire, which is a direct correlation of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Ironically enough, the Israelites were not required to tithe in the wilderness while they were being guided by the Spirit of God.

    Israel was given specific instructions to wait to tithe until God chose a place once they entered the promised land. In the meantime, In Exodus 35, you will read the account of how the tabernacle was funded completely through freewill and spirit led gifts that came from the hearts of the Israelites.

    1 the tabernacle was mobile, 2 the pillar of God’s spirit rested upon it. as in Acts 3. The tabernacle was temporary 4. it was a place where God dwelt among men John 1:14

    I’m not throwing arguments or doctrine at you here. I’m taking a different route, and hope you see that Spirit led giving is not just shown through “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not’s”. Spirit led giving is promised through the symbolism and illustration that God provided to us through the example that Israel gave in the wilderness. Funding God’s ministry through Spirit led giving is clearly on display in Exodus 35.

    It is clear that the Israelite journey through the wilderness depicts the journey of the Church through this age before we enter our promised land.

    p.s. sorry if this comment sounds choppy or confusing. wrote it real fast.

    • Dwight says:

      I think wisdom might ask the question:where in the New Testament is this practice?’ and “Why is there such a push by Pastors to see that people tithe, but do little else?” It alsmost seems like the Government getting taxes, if they could force you they might.

  16. Steve says:

    Well we can go back & forth with this one & I do understand & hear what you are saying, I just think that as long as you are giving in faith & what God instucts to give God will bless you & you are right we should give under the direction of Holy Spirit but what happens in a lot of cases is that people take free will & just give God a tip are giving is nowhere near to where the giving was in the old testament in reference to the tabernacle. The only point I would like to make is that if we werer truly listening to Holy Spirit we would be giving more than we as a whole do. That means time, talent & money.

  17. Either way, if we were listening to the tithe, we would be giving more as a whole also. So, it’s not like tithing solves greed either.

  18. Steve says:

    You are right it does not solve the greed issue at all. It was a pleasure talking to you, I pray God blesses you in all your endevors for the kingdom!!!

  19. Thanks for stopping by Steve.

  20. Jacob's fave wife in the Bible says:

    Thanks for the blog. I also read everyone’s responses and I’m all for supporting the work of God with our giving. Question:

    I know u don’t believe in the 10% type of tithing but in cheerfully spirit-led giving. So can one give into ANY work of God (i.e. church, mission, music ministry i.e. Kirk Franklin, Michael Smith etc. or does it only have to be a church? I’d like to gain clarification on WHERE one can tithe/”tithe”…

    Thanks and God bless!

    • Dwight says:

      Should we not reckion with what that “cheerful giving was for?” Was it a tithe???

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