Does The Bible Allow Less Than 10%?
We are starting our series of posts called “Tithing on Trial” and begin with this argument defending tithing.
There is no place in the Bible where it says to give less than a tithe.
There are plenty of examples in scripture where the Israelites gave an offering or a sacrifice that was less than 10% of their increase. To say that there is no place in the bible where it says to give less than 10% is a closed-minded and ignorant statement.
If we want to get technical about giving, we should remind ourselves that there is no place in the bible where it encourages us to offer less than 100%. If you want to dissect this even further, God doesn’t require us to give back 100%, he requires us to give back 100% plus interest. We can see this concept in the parable of the bags of Gold in Matthew 25:14-30. “…Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest…”
In this parable a master leaves three servants entrusted with his riches while he’s away on a journey. When he comes back, the master finds that two of the servants give back even more than what was given to them, but finds the third servant returning only 100% what he was given. Although this parable is ultimately about lost souls, we can reflect on the implications this has on stewardship in general. This parable shines new light into my heart and brings conviction about how i should truly view stewardship and giving.
9 Occurrences Where Giving Was Less than 10% in the Old Testament
- Abraham – Gave from the spoils of war and not a tenth from his own wealth. (Hebrews 7:4)
- Israel – They were only required to offer 1/500 of the spoils of war. (Numbers 31:9, 27-29)
- The poor – They received but never gave from their gifts. (Nehemiah 10:38)
- Occupational income (Not including farming and herding) – Doctors, Lawyers, Carpenters, etc didn’t tithe from their increase. (Leviticus 27)
- First fruit offerings – This included a small portion of first of the crop. This was the first offering of the crops as well as the best and was less than a tithe. (Exodus 23:16)
- High Priests – The Levites tithed to the house of Aaron, but what did the house of Aaron give from the tithe they received? As far as i know, it wasn’t a tithe. (Numbers 18:8-20)
- Temple Tax – Only a half Shekel used for the maintenance of the Temple. The bible states, “The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less” (Exodus 30:13-16)
- Herdsmen – Every tenth animal was given as a tithe, this means if a farmer had 9 cows, he was commanded to give 0%. If he had 19 cows, he gave 5.3% etc. (Leviticus 27:30-33)
- Promised Land – The Israelites gave no tithes from animals or agriculture they raised outside the promised land of Israel (Deuteronomy 12:5)
A misconception about tithing is the belief that everyone was required to give tithes off everything. The bible repeatedly clarifies that the tithe was only given from the crops or animals, which means that tithes were not given off of wages earned from other occupational incomes. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, blacksmiths and carpenters did not give a single cent from their occupational income. On the other hand if they garnished increase from their herds or from their personal crops, they were to give the tenth one to God. One can only conclude that some carpenters may not have tithed at all if their never had crops or animals.
If you read every single bible verse about tithing from the time it was commanded to the end of scripture, you will see that neither money nor other goods were involved in tithing. Even when Jesus spoke to the pharisees in the New Testament about tithing (Matthew 23), he confirmed that herbs and spices from the garden were to be tithed upon.
Many people also forget that the poor received the tithe; they didn’t give it (Deuteronomy 14:28,29). There is no scripture stating that the poor must give back 10% of what was donated to themselves. As you can see, this is another group of people that not only gave less than 10% of their increase but in reality were benefactors without even being a contributor.
I’m sure there are some of you who think i am looking at tithing legalistically, and i’m focusing on the legalities of the Mosaic law instead of tithing under grace. There is a pre-mosaic example of Abraham’s tithe which didn’t include animals or crops that we can look at. But let’s compare scripture with scripture and really understand whether or not Abraham’s example prior to the law sets the tone for tithing throughout scripture. Let’s read Numbers 31:25-30, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Count up the plunder that was taken–of man and beast–you and Eleazar the priest and the chief fathers of the congregation; and divide the plunder into two parts, between those who took part in the war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. And levy a tribute for the LORD on the men of war who went out to battle: one of every five hundred of the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep; take [it] from their half, and give [it] to Eleazar the priest as a heave offering to the LORD. And from the children of Israel’s half you shall take one of every fifty, drawn from the persons, the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep, from all the livestock, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of the LORD.'”
I know it is kind of a lengthy passage, but in summary, God just told Israel to divide the spoils of war in half, take 1/500 of the first half and give it to the family of the high priest, and then take 1/50 of the second-half and give it to the Levites. For those of us who are bad at math, i had a genius figure this out for me, and it seems the Israelites gave 2.005% of the spoils of war to God. So, in other words, this is a clear example where Israel was commanded to give less than 10% of their increase.
Now that the evidence has been given in this court of law, it is your turn to decide; Does the Bible allow less than 10% of your increase- Guilty or not guilty?
YOU BE THE JUDGE