Tithe means one-tenth or 10 percent. The first mention of tithing is in Genesis 14. Sodom and their allies went to war with other nations. During this battle, Lot who was Abram’s son that lived in Sodom, was taken captive along with all he owned. When Abram heard of this he assembled a group to go get him back. Abram’s army won the fight and brought back everything that was taken. Abram gave a tenth of the bounty to Melchizedek king of Salem who was a priest. The king of Sodom told Abram to return the people to him but keep the goods for himself. Abram wouldn’t take anything from him except for what his army had already used. The rest was given back to the king of Sodom.
Genesis 14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
This is also mentioned more in Hebrews.
Hebrews 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Abram, or Abraham as his named was changed later, did this tithing not because of the law to do so. The law came about later on after the people were saved from the land of Egypt. All of the tribes of Israel received a portion of land except for the Levites.
Numbers 18:21-24 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
For this reason, the Israelites were to give a portion of their blessings to the Levites. This is why they were commanded to tithe. What were they commanded to tithe? Was it money as we see in our churches today? No.
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
As you see it wasn’t money that was tithed. It was the abundance of their labor in the field. In fact, it says that if you have so much to carry and such a long way to go, you may sell the tithe for money and then when you get where you are to be that you may spend it how you wish but not to forget the Levites. You were to share it with them.
This also tells us how often they were to tithe. It wasn’t once a week, every Sunday. It was once a year. Once a year they were to gather a tenth of their field increase and give it to the Levites but at the end of the third year they were to share with everyone.
What was done with the tithes? The Levites were to take a tenth of the tithes and place them in the treasure house, or storehouse. The rest they kept for themselves to live on. The store house was God’s portion.
Nehemiah 10:38 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
Now some of those Levites were a little greedy and kept more out than they should have. So, God tells them that they have stolen from Him and, not only Him but, the whole nation. He then tells them they are to bring ALL of the tithes into the storehouse and trust that God will still take care of them exceeding what they put in the storehouse.
Malachi 3:8-10 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
The mention of tithing is in 8 books of the Old Testament and 4 books of the New Testament. What does Christ tell us about tithing? Are we commanded to do so?
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
He told the Pharisees that they were tithing fine and well but that is not the most important of all they should be doing.
Jesus was more about giving because you wanted to not because you were told to.
Mark 12:41-44 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Jesus holds high the ones that give all they have and expect nothing in return. These are the ones that are blessed. They give all they have and trust God to take care of them and provide for their needs.
Luke 18:9-14 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Tithing will not “buy” your way into heaven. It’s interesting that those who preach about tithing being mandatory of a Christian don’t really understand what the first Christians actually did. They didn’t tithe. They sold everything they had and gave it to the apostles who in turn gave it to the followers of Christ. How many Christians would do that today?
Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Acts 4:32-37 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Matthew 19:20-24 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Luke 12:33-34 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 18:18-25 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Here is a story that resembles the greedy Levites. A couple sold their land but they kept a portion of the money for themselves and told Peter that what they gave to him was all the money earned from the sale. That is not fully putting your trust in God.
Acts 5:1-10 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
Christ did not command us to tithe.
Acts 15:23-29 The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law (Old Testament laws of Moses, Jewish laws): to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication (these including the laws of Jesus since that is what was taught to Gentiles): from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Gentiles, non-Jewish, are not required to follow the Old Testament Hebrew laws given by Moses. We are to follow the laws of Christ and those given by the hand of God.
Hebrews 7:5-9 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
The Levites were commanded to take tithes of their brethren, the Jews, according to the law. Gentiles, who are not bound by the law, give and receive tithes from Abraham in the form of joyful giving. No certain amount but what our heart feels need to give. This is a way we stay humble. People with a lot of money and possessions put that as their treasure and they end up revering these things. They don’t want to part with it or share it. They can’t live without it. They put their trust of survival in these things instead of God.
As Christians we are promised an inheritance unlike the Levites. However, If you feel the need to give to your Christian pastor or preacher for his efforts then do so because like the Levites, he does not receive a wage. But, do not forget the ones that are without. We are to give to those in need. If they need clothing, give it. If they need food, give it. If they need shelter, give it. If they need money, give it. If they need your time, give it. Not just ten percent because Christ didn‘t give just ten percent of Himself for us. Even if that is all we have, give it. Freely. That is our tithing and you will be blessed abundantly.