I just received a question in an email, “Should I tithe before or after taxes?” It’s a good question. Even though there are many other difficult questions in regards to tithing, many people have been confused for some time about whether they should tithe on the gross or net. Everything seemed pretty cut and dry with Israel in the Bible, but it doesn’t seem that way with us since so much has changed with the New Testament Church.
Did Israel Tithe Before or After Taxes?
The tithe for Israel was actually part of their tax system. The tithe paid for many of the civil duties in their government. When Israel gathered their harvest, Leviticus 27 says that they set the tenth one aside. We cannot simply equate the tithe for the Church to what Israel was doing with the tithe.
The taxes that we pay today are much like the taxes that Israel paid through tithing. Our tax somewhat functions as a tithe did for ancient Israel. According to Nerd Wallet As of 2023, the lowest tax bracket for single-filers is 10%. Our taxes pay for things such as welfare and civil functions much like the tithing tax did for Israel. Their tithe paid for judges, welfare, and administrative officials in the government.
The answer is that Israel didn’t tithe before or after taxes. The tithe was their tax.
Do You Tithe Before or After Taxes?
Since we can’t take Israel’s example and apply it to our situation today, what can we take from scripture to answer the question of whether we should tithe before or after taxes? The answer is not as straightforward as some would like. Because the Bible does not clarify the technical aspects of tithing for our culture. Tithing before or after taxes is just one of a long list of other questions about finances and giving such as:
- Do you tithe on retirement earnings?
- Do you tithe on gifts?
- Do you tithe on my investment returns?
- Do you tithe on the benefits of my health insurance?
- Do you tithe on car insurance claims?
- Do you tithe on social security?
- Is tithing before or after taxes?
- Can I count Christian education toward tithing?
- Can I tithe to a charity?
- Can I tithe to friends and family?
OK…So you get the point. Tithing is a complicated matter in the bible that doesn’t give us straight answers for today. Since tithing in the bible does not provide us with clear direction about whether we should tithe before or after taxes, the obvious answer is that our tithe is neither before nor after taxes. This is the wrong question to ask, but keep reading to understand why.
Should We Tithe on our Tax Returns?
The Bible is not explicit about what to do in this situation. The tithe was Israel’s tax. It’s almost asking if Israel should tithe on their tithe return. If we already paid what was due, why would we need to pay more?
Most people ask this question because some will only tithe on their gross or net income. Meaning that some of us will give 10% off the top of our paychecks before uncle same takes his share and some of us give 10% after uncle sam. So, when tax returns come around, we’re wondering if we need to pay back what we did not tithe on originally.
If you want to read more about this, you can read the article Should I Tithe on my Tax Return. I’ll leave you with the statement that Jesus is quoted as saying in Mark 12:17, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Do We Tithe at all?
The question you should be asking yourself right now is if tithing is the answer at all. Through all of this, I am reminded of the verse In Romans 2:29 – “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.”
Those who have a heart toward God will seek obedience. So I understand why they question in regards to the tithing command. But Godly Stewardship is not in the letter, it is of the heart and in the Spirit. Some may see fit to include a 10% requirement within the spirit of the law, but when confronted about whether 10% is a reflection of their heart, they answer, “No”. If a 10% commitment is not a reflection of their heart then how can it be within the spirit of the law?
The point is that all these questions about tithing show how 10% giving is a part of the letter and not of the spirit. The regulations about what you can give, who you can give to, how much you can give, when and where; are all part of the letter that kills. if you don’t think it kills, just look at how people stumble over one tithing question. Let alone, a hundred more that the bible doesn’t even give you answers for; because the instructions for tithing were given under the Old Covenant.
With Spirit-led giving in the New Testament, the command to tithe is overwritten and fulfilled. If the law was fulfilled, that means its purpose is used up. You cannot continue to use and add more water to a bucket of water when it has fulfilled its purpose. It is full and finished with its job. It is not abolished. It is just fulfilled. Now, you need a different bucket that allows you to fill up with more water. Thank God for Spirit-led giving in its place.