The Reason Why Israel Only Tithed Food

The Reason Why Israel Only Tithed Food

Understanding why Israel only tithed food is one of the most important aspects in understanding giving and also one of the more profound truths about tithing. The very definition of tithing serves as a roadblock to dissecting this practice, applying it, and understanding its deeper implications. 10% is it’s most obvious attribute, so all it’s other qualities are overlooked. The more meaningful principles of tithing aren’t practiced or preached because our attention is drawn to how much it was instead of asking the questions, who, what and why? These are the more important questions to ask anyway.

applesLev 27:30-32 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, Israel was required to give a tenth of either the animals or of the fruit of the land. They were not to give anything from their other possessions or from any other form of wealth. God would neither accept money nor goods. Learning the truth about why this is important will help you understand what giving means to God. You will be rewarded with wisdom if you can grasp this concept.

In today’s modern  world, we live in a primarily industrial society, but up until relatively recently this was not case. The entire world lived in an agrarian lifestyle. Farming and herding were more common than they were uncommon. Even though money may have been custom to use in transactions, it certainly wasn’t even a necessity in many transactions since the needs of our society were simple.

Although we’ve evolved from an agrarian to an industrial world, it doesn’t mean that the amount of farming and herding has decreased over time. Overall, there are less farmers per-capita, but the same amount of food and farm-land needed to feed one person today is also the same amount of food one needed 1,000 years ago. So, it’s irrational to claim we can tithe money instead of food because we’re not an agrarian society.

Many believe that Israel was asked to give a tenth of the crops and animals because farming and herding were so common. In other words, God didn’t accept money back then because it was the least available commodity; even though today he is quite accepting of cash, credit cards & even bitcoins. To human rationale, it makes sense for God to ask us to give a portion of our most common tender.

As you are putting this all together in your mind, i want you to think of one instance in the Old Testament where God makes a request just for the sake of convenience? I’m sure you can’t think of a single instance because  you know God had a reason and a purpose for everything he asked. His requests had some sort of spiritual relation to it.

As you continue reading, i want you to ask yourself some questions:

  • Why did Israel give only food?
  • Why is it acceptable for us to give money?
  • Did we change tithing to fit into what God wanted or what we wanted?
  • Does this make tithing more relevant or less relevant today?

Reason: God is the Creator

adam-godGod only wanted Israel to give from resources that they could not produce themselves.

Let’s say i was a carpenter and I needed to sell 100 wooden chairs to feed my family. Since creating chairs is my job, then the responsibility and all the credit for taking care of my family goes to me. Now what if my responsibility was cultivating something that i couldn’t produce on my own at all? What if i had to provide for my family in a way wherein i had to rely on God to produce for me? God wanted farmers to work in the field, although he was responsible for the rain, sun, & nutrients for the plant to develop and grow into food. As human beings, we can’t create something from nothing nor can we grow anything without an act of God.

Ultimately, God’s intention was to draw attention to him as the creator of life and growth. Money had no value to God, so he didn’t want that. He wanted a form of worship not a form of giving. Anyone can give to God, but when you turn your giving into worship, then that’s what God values. God wanted praise, honor, and expectations placed upon him as the creator because that’s his desire. He deeply wants us to rely on him. When mankind realizes what God is to us and what God does for us, that is when God is pleased.

If an Israelite did not grow any crops or raise any animals, then he did not give a tenth from his income. This means that Bankers, Lawyers, Blacksmiths & Carpenters did not give a single penny of their income towards tithing. This sounds a bit unfair, but as i have stated, it’s not about fairness, it’s about worship.

God is a creator and demands our respect in that category. God is the giver and the taker of life and he wanted Israel to understand this. Giving a tenth of  goods from which an Israelite could produce on his own could not be a part of the tithing system in the Old Testament, so why is it part of our New Testament system? In truth, the Church wouldn’t know what to do with food, because we haven’t done much to feed the poor anyway; but give us money, and we know of a billion ways we can utilize it.

I don’t want to go on a greedy, church-bashing rant because i really am trying to relay different point here.

Reason: God is the Provider

babyAnother reason why Israel only tithed food because God wanted us to relate him with our very basic, humanistic needs. This is why Jesus referred to himself as the living water & bread of life. He didn’t refer to himself as the gold or silver of life since we don’t need gold or silver to live. God didn’t call himself the ‘paycheck’ of life either. He wanted to express: God = life. He didn’t want to express (God = wealth) or (God = happiness)

Mankind can live in a world without money and credit cards; we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. But we can’t live in a world with out food and clothing. God wanted Israel to give away part of the very basic necessities we need to sustain life. Isn’t that what God desires anyway- our life? Would God be asking for our life if he asked for our car, or for our job, or money? Does he want you to give him your worldly goods? I’m sure in a way the answer is yes, but if we trusted God in such a way gave away something from our lives that symbolically represented our right to life, then what would that mean to God?

This is why fasting is so effective and worthy as a believer. Placing our life and health at a lower priority really does a lot to get God to react, so wouldn’t it makes sense to place an emphasis on the tithes of food?

Reason: It’s What Jacob Promised

pinky-swearA third and final reason why Israel tithed on food is more of a technicality. It’s simply because it’s what Jacob vowed. Some may disagree with me on this one, but i’m of the school of thought that Israel was required to give a tenth of the increase from the promised land because of the covenant that Jacob made with God. You can read more details about the Vow of Jacob in these two posts Misconceptions About Jacob’s Tithing Vow & Jacob’s Tithing Vow Part 2

In a synopsis, God tells Jacob – ‘The land you are laying on, i will give to you and your descendants’. Then Jacob wakes up and says ‘of all that you give me, i will give a tenth back to you’. Simply put, it was a covenant that was binding to all the recipients included in God’s promise just as circumcision was binding to all generations in the Abrahamic covenant. God said i will give you this land and Jacob says i will tithe from the land you give me. Jacob’s vow was not a deceptive bargain with God. Those who think that are misdirected by either the translation or other’s interpretation of that passage. You can read the links to Jacob’s Vow above for some clarity.

Why Does the Church Receive/Give Money?

offeringSince we can understand the significance of tithing food, we should scrutinize why the Church is comfortable with receiving/giving money. As you’ve read the material above, you should now realize that  the question of “How much Israel gave” had very little significance compared to the question of “What Israel gave”. When you look at the number ’10’, to us it’s just a number. It’s possible there’s no spiritual significance to this fraction except for the fact that we have 10 fingers and the world’s counting system is based on tens.

Because 10% is tithing’s most obvious attribute, the amount has been the focal point behind sermons and church budgets. Maybe this is just the affect of an underlying problem. Maybe, deep down the Church actually desires financial stability more than we desire worship; and that’s why we cling to tangible attributes while overlooking the spiritual attributes of tithing. We’ve chosen our doctrinal Church practices based on relevance; after all what good is food compared to money nowadays?  When i say ‘church’ i don’t mean pastors and leaders, I mean you and I – everyone. We’ve evolved into a selfish, greedy civilization.

We’ve focused our attention on benchmarks, goals, and numbers in the Church. This mentality has thrust tithing in the spotlight for stabilizing Church budgets. Many believers look at tithing in the OT and think God is a genius! WOW! He’s invented a flat tax that is a universal, non-discriminatory, fool-proof, consistent, predictable way to fund the Church (sigh of relief). Sadly, many miss the true nature of God because In his eyes, the genius of tithing in the Old Testament had nothing to do with the percentage, it had to do with worship. Unfortunately, we’ve taken the worship part out and kept the mechanical part instead.

We’ve turned God into an accountant who sits at his clerk desk with a calculator and punches numbers all day to make sure that we’ve gotten that 10%. Sitting right next to him is a little lever that he’s ready to pull in order to release the windows of heaven as the barometer crosses from 9.9% to 10.0%! Yay! You’re the lucky winner! Whooosh! i can hear the blessings falling. Side note: ‘The windows of heaven opening’ is also an indication of the importance of agricultural tithe since that passage is referring to rain falling from the sky to water the crops; not money falling from the sky.

Do i think that we should go back to tithing God our food? No way. I’ve already stated above that tithing was  a command for the Israelite nation, from the Israelite land, and under a separate covenant.

God Always Provides the Increase

plant1 Corinthians 3:6-7 states, ” I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”

The truths mentioned above spill into other aspects of Christianity. Imagine if we could take credit for creating new life in Christ? We could approach God and say, “look at what i made”. Instead, because God is responsible for the increase, we can approach him with a gift and say, “look at what you made”. Just as the Israelite farmers had done when he presented his food tithe.

So many get hung-up on the ‘Test me in this‘ passage in Malachi 3 thinking that it’s the only place in the bible where we can supposedly abuse or disrespect God. God wanted the farmers and herdsmen to test him because forming life and growth was out of their control anyway. When you understand what tithing was and why their success was up to God you begin to understand why it’s a disservice to use Malachi 3 ‘test me in this’ passage to encourage tithing in the Church. There’s a reason why God said ‘test me’, and it had nothing to do with tempting God, nor does it bring any more validity to the practice of tithing today.

As a farmer in Israel, we could hold God’s feet to the fire on his promise to provide for us. If we toiled all year and gave our tithe, and yet, God allowed very little to grow; we could confront God and truly blame him for the small harvest. No matter how much we plowed or plucked, God is ultimately responsible for creation. Although, if we were a carpenter, then forming, molding, and producing each and every chair is our responsibility. How can you ‘test God’ when you are a carpenter and you are responsible for creating chairs?

Is Tithing Relevant for the Church?

Tithing has no place in the Church today, and even more so the way we tithe (with money). There are principles we can apply today, but giving 10% to a local church is not a requirement. There is nowhere in scripture that informs us how tithing should be changed into what it is today. This doesn’t mean that tithing is required but we’re doing it wrong. It means that we’ve changed the practice of tithing to make it sound like it fits into the New Testament Church. The New Covenant paints a new picture for how we are to worship God with our giving. Please give sacrificially, cheerfully, and consistently while allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions.

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

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52 comments on “The Reason Why Israel Only Tithed Food
  1. Jason says:

    The word money is 1st used somewhere around Genesis 16 or 17. So, why did God leave out money when He asked the tithe of literal Israel? I was tithing from my GROSS income and not net and had no problem with it until I learned better. What tithers don’t realize is that God DOES NOT want 10%!!! He wants 100%!!!
    He shall find the Lord when he search for him with your whole(100%) heart. That’s why Jesus commended the widow. She gave all. Also, when I say that I don’t tithe, people’s 1st reaction is you don’t pay anything? I never said that. I do according to Paul’s teaching in 2Cor9. The same thing that Jesus taught in the gospels. If someone breaks into your house and takes your things and I recover them, are they mine? No. They’re still yours. Again, Abraham tithed of other peoples things. I agree that everything that we do should be of love. My wife has access to every financial account that I have because I love her. I did not give her access to 1/10 of my accounts. Everything that I have belongs to God. I don’t limit the scriptures in order not to give. Your tithing is only 10%. My giving is anywhere from 1-100%. Also, there were 2 yearly tithes and another every 3rd year. If we are going to tithe and be scriptural in it, it needs to be 23 1/3%. Why is the word tithe only found 1 time in all of the NT (Hebrews), and that’s only to account of what Abraham did, if it’s so important to the church (spiritual Israel)? Levitical priests were the only people allowed to receive the tithe. Jesus didn’t even receive the tithe for this reason. Where are our Levitical priests in the church? They can’t be found. Also, the storehouse was within the temple. 1Cor6:19 tells me that I am the temple of God. So, if I was to tithe, my tithe would remain with me according to that scripture. Hebrews 7:11-18 & 8:13 says that the OT was done away with. Jesus didn’t abolish the law but He did fulfill it. Like with any agreement, when the terms of it are fulfilled, it ends.

    • Spike says:

      Jason – You are so right. Most people that believe in tithing have never thoroughly studied the scriptures regarding tithing, and they sure haven’t studied the scriptures in the original languages. Most of them are just doing what they have heard they should, not based on scriptural education. I, too, give based on 2 Cor 8 & 9. However, I have studied the scriptures and continue to study the scriptures in the original languages. As you stated, giving should be done under the leadership of the Holy Spirit (a form of worship). Despite your accurate argument, some people will still tithe because they believe it is an obligation. Tithing makes some people feel good. As if participating in tithing is somehow allowing them to participate in the salvation process.

      • Jason says:

        Spike, you are so right. I sat 3 deacons down and we walked through the scriptures and 2 told me that tithing is working for them so they’re going to continue doing what they’re doing. It makes me wonder who you’re following….God or man.?

        • Maria says:

          I have a friend who said the same thing. Tithing works for him and he will continue to do so. He wont even explore the possibilities and seek out scriptures. I find this to be upsetting.
          I find this troublesome if this person is to become my husband. The Lords says wives must submit to their husbands.
          any recommendations?

          • Jason says:

            Wives are supposed to submit to their husband as their husband submits to Christ. But the husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church and gave himself for her. How did Christ give himself for the church? He died For her. So, the husband is to figuratively and if need be literally die so that his wife may live. Probably not too many men will agree with this but if they look at the scripture correctly, they’ll see this. That’s why a smart man will not try to use this scripture to beat his wife into submission. If a man walks with Christ, a godly woman will willingly submit to him because she knows that he won’t abuse his authority.

  2. Danny Babin says:

    There is also an excellent article written by Jack Heller entitled Exposing the tithe lie. Tithe was produce, herds, grains things GROWN from the earth He made. Those were commanded by God to supply food in His house so the Levite priests could worship God Day and night. They had no inheritance or land so if the tithe(food in the storehouse, not money) was not there they had to leave the temple and go work for food so they could continue worshipping God. They were robbing The Lord of worship if all the tithe of the ground was not brought in. Could not eat silver or gold could they?

  3. WE Harris says:

    The Blood of the Tithe was revealed to me to be the most important part.without the shedding of blood there is no remission.

  4. Little John says:

    The tithes
    First of all we should only take the facts.
    I believe we should draw to logical conclusions with factual data.
    And definitely not draw conclusions with partial data, Data that is not proven to be accurate or what somebody thought of based by purely opinion of his not so studied out “version” other than what the Bible accurately says, or by taking some particular word in a verse, and therefore basing another Doctrine off that one “new” word meaning or because of a minor infraction of a word in the Bible and thus lending to dispel many other verses. I believe that this is terms for disanulling those types of value factors.
    Understanding dispensations of time in the Bible is very crucial in analyzing data.
    Trying to shortcut your analysis of the scripture means very little and should not be used to develop a proper thesis for any conclusive analysis with any significant meaning to the reader.
    Ex: One should take a deeper look and a broader view of the whole scope of scriptures first, before basing any reliable analysis of deductive reasoning.

  5. Luke says:

    I am a faithful tither. I am well aware of the arguments stated in this article. I will not stop tithing, I have always done it out of an act of worship, because I am thankful of what God has given me, the strength and skills to work and support my family. It’s all his goodness that allows us to work, the rain fall of the just and unjust but, only the humble return to Give praise and thanks. I significantly contribute to the House Of God. I believe God honours my heart, gift and zeal. I give God the first of my wages, because I put him first. I stick to the tithe as my lowest regular giving. Abraham for me set standard, that Jacob and the law of Moses reaffirm, I see no evil in that pattern.

    I am increasingly worried that rather than teaching people the values of giving, tithing is attacked. Those that tithe normally do it willingly, because they trust God and are so thankful to him. They tend to be faithful givers, although at time we all need to be reminded it ALL belongs to God even our life and health, not just our food… we go further than the Old Testament shadow we have a fuller image today through Christ.

    A tithe of a tithe, (double honour as Paul makes reference to in the new testament in 2 Timothy if memory serves me) is a reference to those in full time ministry being supported by the gift and giving of the church. The same way the priests could eat of the sacrifices given to God, the preacher can receive a living from those he ministered to. Also a window indeed that has no1 to rely on, she can except support from her Church.

    In the new Testament we are all a royal priesthood, so that which we give, in worship to God goes to the store house or the highpriest directly, not via any levites (ps I know in the New covenant we don’t have levites, secular and non secular roles, once saved everything we do is done unto the lord).

    Priests and Levites didn’t minister continuously, they had families and worked and lived in cities of refuge! Levites are a picture of new Testament believers who’s hope is the kingdom to come, not needing to own homes for land as God Himself would provide for them.

    I have never seen anyone attack tithing and quote the first examples of church giving under grace. Selling homes and land and laying the proceeds at the apostles feet. Then a couple hold back a bit too much and are killed for either lying to the Holy Ghost or Idolatry of money. There was no requirement for MONEY but, pure worship, whole hearted trust in God. It seen strange that this example of giving above and beyond and God judgment never makes attacking 10% gift conversations.

    Faithful giving has strengthened and kept my faith alive, making it active when it would otherwise would hide in comfortable luxury.

    The New Covenant doesn’t give rules for giving, it should be written on hearts. For me exceeding the old covenant is a minimum, I happily will give more and frequently do, if I ever wanted to give less I would ask myself why and examine my heart carefully. God deserves my all and if 10% is an issue am I even serving God with all that I am.

    Sorry if I am sounding legalistic but, grace today to many means, sexual sin cant take people from heaven, holiness is an option not a command, giving is about feelings or when you have excess, meanwhile the needs of widows the poor, orphans are neglected cause the church cant even afford to keep the heating on, or stop the banking taking its meeting building, whilst people attack the methods church purpose to meet the essential need to pay for a place of worship or a ministers living.

    I think those that love God would be better use promoting giving faithfully and encouraging people with the wisdom mentioned in this thread. NOT telling people they were wrong to tithe, making people suspicious of their pastors that laboured to bring them out from the world. Tell people how to making their gift acceptable. 10% our 50% or 100 same rules apply but, allow people and their church space without criticising whatever means proposed.

    Have you considered some pastors,don’t take a wage to keep their churches open and financed. To find the few givers in church are attacked for tithing!

    Sorry if I come across aggressive but, this is close to my heart. I see churches closing daily in my area in England whilst Christian’s drive nice cars, have extravagant homes and live like Pastor C Dollar. Ironical even a pastor with a last named changed to dollar preachers against tithing now as the world opposes this methods that’s simply served the churches for decade.

    I make no claim new testament tithe, 10% is identical to the Old. That doesn’t make it wrong to church forces any tithing or giving, that would be a violation of God given choice.

    • Shalom says:

      Everything you said is very correct, but if the Church leaves it at the choice level, then it follows the freedom of worship we have in Christ, but most churches use Malachi 3 as the reason Christians should pay, THAT IS WRONG. Come to Africa, come to my Country, come to my church, where we are literally placed under the old testament curse for not paying tithe. As a matter of fact, tithing is a criteria for your ordination and also a criteria for your promotion. we use tithe cards to monitor tithes and ministers are chastened for not teaching on tithing the Malachi way.
      When a believer understands the love of Christ giving will be no issue, but whether the church needs finance or not is not a reason why tithing should be forced on the people. I agree the NT method of giving should be taught but not forced. 2Corinthians 9:7 is always on my mind.
      Your tithing is not what gives you blessing the law of seed and harvest does because even those who don’t tithe as Christians gets blessed if they are givers. The church should be left in the liberty of Christ where the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts.

  6. Carole says:

    I appreciate all the perspectives shared in the article and the comments. I kept waiting for the references to other forms of biblical giving which equate to than 10% in the Old Testament mandates and 100% by New Testament standards. Good to know the OT tithe applied to farmers. What about the other forms of giving? Farmers were not the only Jews giving from their increase.

    When I took the Crown Ministry class re finances, I studied more than just the versus listed in Crown Ministry. I did cross-referencing to include a more in depth study. I did NOT trace it back to the original language. That is always more enlightening for sure. But what I surmised generally is that Financial mandates of the Old Testament were more along the lines of 30%. But I don’t recall how I came to that conclusion. My main takeaway was that if we are going to hold the 10% as a Biblical mandate then we are obligated to hold a higher percentage as a Biblical mandate.

    I agree with the hundred percent concept in the New Testament. That will manifest differently in different lives. Given our tendency towards self-centeredness, I suspect that Believers as a whole are not giving what God is calling us to give.

    How to teach on giving and finances from a biblical perspective is a lot more complicated than the 10% or 100% perspective.

    At the least, I’d like to see this article expanded to a more complete view of old OT giving. I found this article through a search to better understand the tithe in terms of giving literal fruit and how that applied to the fruit of one’s labor. Surely farming is not the only thing living that is a result of dependence on God. Our very breath is from him. And, mist people have some sort of handicap to overcome in order to have success.

    The article has been enlightening. Thank you. Pleas do build on that.

    • Jared Brian says:

      Thanks for coming by. It sounds as if you have some great advice and input on the topic of finances. There is an article here that talks about whether the bible gave less than 10%. –
      There are some things that i’d like to point out

      I agree with the hundred percent concept in the New Testament.

      I understand that people have this concept that the new testament is a higher standard, but this is just simply false. God’s principles never change. He required 100% from Israel, just as much as he’s required 100% from us. Many people refer to Christ’s words about hate and murder being equal, but the reality is that God all of a sudden didn’t have a change of heart about murder or hate. Hate is the cause of murder. Greed is the cause of theft. Greed and hate were never a notch below murder and stealing in God’s eyes. in my point of view, standards were decreased in the new testament. clean meats, clothing, rituals, etc were all fulfilled. So, yeah, in my reality, it’s quite the opposite of what people suggest.

      I have a book that i’ve written, but have never published. It’s not a very long book (about 100 pages). I like to keep things very concise and succinct. This is a culmination of my thoughts on tithing and giving that i had written over a 10 year period. If you are interested, please let me know, i can send it to your email address?

  7. Ron says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article and reading the replies. I’ve been taught to tithe my whole life and did so even when I wasn’t a believer. After becoming a believer I continued tithing, of course because of the traditional teaching of tithing based on the traditional passages (e.g., Malachi 3). However over the last two years my perspective changed as I studied more rather than relying on what was taught. I saw the arguments for and against tithing, and both sides make sense when presented clearly. What I didn’t understand became confusing and God impressed upon me “Regardless of either way I reveal the truth to you, it’s a matter of your heart.” Today, I still tithe and give an offering but from a different spirit/mindset. 1) As someone mentioned previously, I continue to give because it works for me. I’ve seen the results of honoring God with monetary giving. Even so, that could simply be the law of sowing and reaping, which works for believers and non-believers Yet, that’s not to be confused with “I don’t believe God will bless me if I dont give/forget to give this week.” No, that’s along the lines of paying for a blessing.

    2) I tithe and give an offering for the furtherance of the gospel. I view tithing and giving as supporting God’s work/Kindgom/people. After all, we purchase food, clothing, and entertainment from non-believers, thereby, supporting the work of people who couldn’t care less about God. Every time we purchase from them we support their logos which carry their message, so we should have that mindset when it comes to supporting the kingdom we say we’re apart of. Fortunately, Im a part of a ministry that supports one another within and the surrounding community who are non-believers. That’s my financial contribution going to work and doing Kingdom work.

    3) When we understand that tithing/givinf is part worshipping and building the Kingdom, we’ll give to support other ministries and not only the primary ministry we attend. Again, going back to point 2, I give to support the Kingdom and the message being spread, whether it’s a ministry for marriages, feeding the homeless, local missions, etc.

  8. Jan says:

    AMEN!and amen to the tithers on here. Frankly, I won’t be so coddling and simply say this op-ed is simply that. In current society, giving 10% of our finances requires faith — as well as faith on the part of the receiving church budget which too often underpay it’s pastor because of this challenge between faith / fear or greed / selflessness. Worship of and dependence on the Lord is very MUCH involved in all of this.

    Next topic.

  9. TIMOTHY WELLS says:

    I had people tell me that Malachi tells us that us to tithe. I did it for many years because I thought it was the right thing to do. After reading and studying scriptures I discovered that it was not about money. Most of the churches that I’ve attended put plenty of attention on tithes and offerings. I think that it is fine to give financially any amount. Just don’t call it a tithe.

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