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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64 comments on “Tithe Definition
  1. Phylazhe says:

    My husband is kind of new to tithe giving. he gave his tithe to the store down the street from us, to feed the children. Is that concidered in God’s eyes your tithings or is it charity? or both? Because Im also confused about tithes and charity, Thought it was two different things? Please email me your answer, we would really appreciate it thank you!

    Sincerely, Phylazhe.

    Email: lalameana@yahoo.com

  2. Phylazhe says:

    My husband is kind of new to tithe giving. he gave his tithe to the store down the street from us, to feed the children. Is that concidered in God’s eyes your tithings or is it charity? or both? Because Im also confused about tithes and charity, Thought it was two different things? Please email me your answer, would really appreciate it thank you!

    Sincerely, Phylazhe.

    Email: lalameana@yahoo.com

  3. Bob n Deb says:

    Over the last year plus my wife and I have been wrestling with our giving and that has led to my co-teaching on the topic of God’s perspective on wealth, a component of which is addressing tithing and generous giving.  For years we have tithed faithfully and cheerfully, as well as given cheerfully beyond the 10%.  God has now set us on a journey of asking the question “How much should we keep?” rather than the one we have asked in the past “How much should we give?”  I do not see tithing as a rule for New Testament believers to follow.  On the other hand, under grace clearly Christ never lowered the bar so I conclude that the 10% is generally insufficient and we need to be prepared to follow God’s leading to more, much more.  In some respects, tithing can be a good guideline for initially developing the habit of giving on a journey to greater sacrifice.
    I am concerned that the Christian church has become so seduced by the materiality of our culture that many churches have lost their moorings to the truth of the gospel, one of the manifestations being enormous expenses for buildings and not enough benevolence to the poor and needy in our local, regional, national and international communities.  I can appreciate that there is a balance to strike in terms of facilities that effectively meet the needs of the body and to consider out of the box ways to do so but we need to step up our efforts to impact the world.  Its hard for me to imagine that God has raised the richest church in the history of the world to build ever greater, more beautiful structures.
    So, if not a tithe, then what?  There is no question that all believers are commanded to give – whether or not we are  in debt or feel there is not enough money to make ends meet every month; after all Jesus exalted for all time the widow who gave “out of her poverty” (Mark 12:41-44).  We have to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit to give radically and sacrificially under the principal of the first fruits rather than what might be left lying around in the checking account at the end of the month.  All of this will play out differently in every believer’s life as they seek God.  One of the key steps though, is consciously leaving behind the American dream in order to be obedient to God.  This love of money and possessions is what Jesus focused on like a laser with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-24) – am I willing to give everything away?  Am I willing to leave behind the 3,000 square foot house and the BMW in order to give radically?  I think of someone like R. G. LeTourneau who grew his giving to the point that he was living on 10% of his earnings – that’s the challenge for us!  Making choices that are counter culture to live on decidedly less – such as Francis Chan’s call to ‘Live the Median’ and give away much to radically change the world for the sake of the gospel.  A part of that journey I am convinced is giving up our belief that when my life is comfortable and I have no difficulties that then I must be in God’s will.  To do this will likely require opening up to believers we can trust who are wise and asking for their insight on how to cut back on our spending and make more economical choices that will enable us to give more.
    My wife and I are now on a path to giving away 25% of what we earn, wrestling with other questions about God’s calling for our wealth and praying that God will increase our faith as well as supply abundantly – not so I can buy the latest plasma TV but so that we can give away even more while living modestly.  By the way, although we give to our church’s general fund but the growth in our giving is being directed to the poor and needy, whether or not its tax deductible (yes, it took me a bit to remind myself that getting a tax deduction is not the reason to give) as I have neighbors that need help from time to time and we are fortunate enough to have means to make a difference. To be clear, I am not sharing this for purposes of recognition but rather just to tell a bit of our journey and, hopefully be used to provoke others to reconsider their giving.
    Bottom line, its a heart issue – forsake the trappings of this world and give generously beyond what you have imagined possible and trust God to take care of you through your time in this world.  It may not be in the ways that we expect and it may not feel great from an earthly perspective, but if we are pursuing him faithfully then God will bless and we’ll experience his peace.

  4. Horst Kruger says:

    The problem with TITHING to the local church is that the preacher, wants to be paid a salary !!! 90% of Preachers are NOT CALLED BY GOD !!!  2) the church-leaders do not trust God for their needs but manipulate the congregation to part with 10% + offerings so that they can fulfill their vision and build empires for themselves and LIVE LAVISH LIVES AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS !!! To tell people that they are cursed if they do not pay the so-called TITHING into the church coffers is an EVIL DEED of GREED !! They are the THIEFS and ROBBERS, not the people !!!

  5. DStone says:

    “90% of Preachers are NOT CALLED BY GOD !!!  2) the church-leaders do not trust God for their needs but manipulate the congregation to part with 10% + offerings so that they can fulfill their vision and build empires for themselves and LIVE LAVISH LIVES AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS !!!”
    Sir, we know there are deceivers and outright criminals in this world falsely representing the Lord. What I want to know is where you came up with the 90% figure?

  6. DStone says:

    Abraham gave a tenth. It must have meant more than just the writer commenting a fact?Otherwise, what’s the point. True we are not under the law, and of course this is before the law so what is one to believe? Just my 2 cents is God is the only one that knows ones reasoning for giving. If done out of compulsion or guilt I would say bad call. Your giving, to be a REAL reflection of your heart can only mean one thing: It is ALL HIS!!!  Everything we receive comes by His generous provision, period. If we believe we are the owners of anything we lie to ourselves and are controlled by the world and its influences. Our stewardship of His provision in the life He has given us is either a reflection of Him or the world.
    I’ve heard it said,”If you want to know what is important in a persons life, look at their checkbook.”

  7. blessed says:

    God is not as interested in what we do as much as he is in why we do it.  There has been much discussion on whether one should tithe or not, how much should one tithe or not, and what is the place of the tithe in the modern church. Seems to be alot of confusion.  I’m not going to get back into all of that except I love what David said in Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” The question for each one of us is “Am I righteous?”  My giving will be what God requires if I am “righteous”.  My tithe will be what God requires if I am “righteous”.  My study of his word will be what God requires if I am “righteous”.  The way I live my life, in every area will be what God requires if I am “righteous”. Those that I impact thru my life, my family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, will be blessed if I am “righteous”.  From the pulpit to the door.  God is not the author of confusion, but if we are confused about who he is, and who we are, and our righteousness, which is achieved by the manisfestation of his holy spirit indwelt in us, orchestrating every facett of our lives, all that we do will be in vain. Let’s pray for ourselves and each other, that our lives glorify God, so that we may see him one day, covered by his “righteousness” and enjoy eternal fellowship with him.  Hallelujah.  God bless.    

    • jeremiah Bodie says:

      I am righteous because of He that is in me (and my belief in Him) what Christ Has done on the cross, not because of my tithing. Tithing is works, are you equating your/our ability to the life giving/saving sacrifice of the Savior. I pray not sir. How dare man to boldly change the word of God from the produce of the field and the animals to money, God never changed those items that were to be tithed on to money, and if so cite the biblical change for all to see(no need to infer) Therefore , kind sir I leave you with this, that the tithe was for the children of Israel(see Mal. 1:1) in the land of (promise)Israel, for the that time in their history, not for the Church under Grace. To the Glory of God.

  8. Sam says:

    Jared, I think I understand where you are coming from on this site and don’t feel like my comments here are in disagreement with the principle, but would welcome the discussion if you think I am saying something that is in conflict with your thoughts.
    The concern I have is that so many people who call themselves Christians do not give at all – let alone cheerfully.  Pastors can and must do better at preaching Biblically about giving and stewardship.  However, while the New Testament (NT) does not command that we give 10% – it can hardly be assumed that it teaches that we are free to give 0% because we are under grace… in fact, based on Jesus teaching about oaths, aldultery, murder, etc… from Matthew 5, one must assume that the call on our lives is much greater than what was required under the law.
    I struggle with giving and the Lord is revealing that this is a trust issue – e.g. Am I trusting in Christ for my satisfaction or trusting in some new “toy”, object, or comfort?  I know that there are many hurting people in the world and for them giving seems impossible, but the majority of us in the US are comparatively wealthy and are more than happy to “give” sacrificially (like to Best Buy, Amazon, itunes, or Costco) if it will benefit us, make us happier, or bring us more comfort, but are slow to do so when it will benefit others, make others happier or bring others comfort.
    I am convicted by Jesus’ command – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also”.
    May our God, the gracious Giver, draw our hearts to acts of sacrificial giving that demonstrate that stuff/pleasure/comfort is not our treasure — Christ is! (paraphrase of a John Piper quote)
    Side note:  The pastor at our church teaches on stewardship and tithing, lives modestly, and gives sacrificially from what he has. So I don’t think that preaching on tithing and having sinful motives are synonymous and the comments on this post that lambast “90%” of pastors and portray them all as hypocritical, money hungry thieves are offensive and near-sighted.  We get upset when people make generalizations about us, so we should be hesitant to pass them out to others.

    • Sam,

      I agree with you.

      About your side note: The only thing i want to clarify is that “I” do expose and blast many of the prosperity gospel preachers who have stolen from widows to compensate their own lavish lifestyle. I am also upset when many of the pastors pressure God’s people to tithe. But as someone who used to defend and teach tithing myself, i am aware that most pastors truly believe the bible does teach tithing. With that said i try to have some level of understanding and could practice more patience with them. There is some level of hypocrisy to the tithe teaching, but in all truth, which one of us does not struggle with being hypocritical every day?

      - jared

      • Sam says:

        Couldn’t agree more that those preaching the Gospel of Prosperity or “Health and Wealth” need to be called out for their twisting of the Gospel of Christ – (have they not read Hebrews? do they not know our Savior who is called the “Man of Sorrows”?)  And also agree that those who are stealing to line their own pockets should be publicly exposed and called to repentance and make recompense.
        I just wouldn’t want Biblical principles of stewardship to get overlooked, because how we spend our wealth (however much/little we have) has theological/spiritual implications.
        A related issue that I have observed more frequently in my life is that in some churches the pastor never preaches about stewardship or tithing b/c they are afraid of how it will come across (they don’t want to sound like those guys who are after people’s money).  As a result many congregations are not being taught anything about how to use their money to glorify God – or shown that stewardship is a discipleship issue.  So we end up with whole bodies of people who live hypocritically without even realizing it -churches professing in their worship songs that “Jesus is all I need”, but then living their everyday lives focused on the next major purchase or their upcoming vacation.  The world looks at them and says, “they want the same things that we want – what’s the big difference?”
        In my opinion, we do need to have pastors who unashamedly call people to wise stewardship and sacrificial giving, but who also back it up by living that way themselves.
        Lastly, I am not personally opposed to using the word “tithe” but can see how it could be used legalistically or could become a stumbling block due to bad experiences and for my part would not insist that using the word “tithe” be a part of teaching regarding stewardship.
        May God bless you and cause His face to shine upon you on this journey.
        All the best!

    • moe says:

      Sam it sounds like you been doing alot of studying may the lord almighty give you even more understanding there shouldn”t be any exchange of argumentive word cause after all will be judge for our oun actions not others. So protect yourselves brothers make sure no one confuses you all god will give each and every one of use an answer. all i can say is dont  leave your fridge empty and give that money to a church you might starve.  

  9. Sam,

    One thing i struggle personally with this blog is the amount of time i spend attacking the tithe and not enough time spending on stewardship principles. In my heart, i want people to be sacrificial and cheerful with their giving, but i also know that in order to give a prisoner the responsibility that freedom brings, you have to let them free of their chains first.

    - jared

  10. Bob G says:

    I have read most of the comments here and the one thing I noticed was the aspect of God’s part/our part.

    God is the owner and we are managers. If God’s business is saving souls and discipleship, the resourses he supplies need to be managed in a way to further God’s purposes…not ours. If you were a manager at a store and you did not make good financial decisions to grow the business, what would the owner be thinking about?…a better manager perhaps? God owns everything and does not NEED our money. Money is a test of being a faithful steward for God to see where your heart is. The relationship with money is a spritual one on many fronts. Think about the decisions we make and how much we think about our return on it instead of God’s glory. Just food for thought.

  11. Jane says:

    whom should the pastor’s wife give the tithe if she is an employer?

    • moe says:

      To the poor directly the needy the ones who eat out of garbage cans, wear torn clothing and that person will now if jesus does really walk with him cause let me tell you god answers his people in observing and being quite, its not really something to break your head over, peace with you  

  12. Pat K Sensing says:

    What should the tithe be used for ?

  13. james gibbs says:

    Matthew,23,23 Jesus made reference to specific groups tithes of mint, anise and cummin. He stated they ought give judgement, mercy, and faith, that these are weightier. I spiritually believe giving to the poor, is giving to GOD, as Christ stated. Give your tenth and more if its how your heart lead you, cause the heart is what GOD judges. But give where theres true need, not mere greed. That’s why this subject isnt detailed in new testament. We have HIS spirit to guide and council. The least you’ve done for one of these, you’ve done for my FATHER in heaven. GOD bless.

  14. watson says:

    Until you Tithe, The Devil will Tied you.

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