Discover the significance of tithes in the Bible, explore principles of giving, and deepen your understanding of stewardship and generosity.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclaimer for details.

What are Tithes in the Bible?

Before we dig into why we tithe, you might be wondering, what does tithing mean in the Bible?

Tithing is defined as one-tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax for the support of the Church and clergy. Basically, it means to put aside 10% of your income and give it to your church and those in need.

Tithes differ from offerings in that they are a monetary way to support the ongoing work of God’s people and to help others. Offerings in the Bible are presented usually as produce such as grain, oil, or livestock as a way to seek repentance or for thanksgiving.

Giving money to church often has a negative stigma from television preacher scams or megachurch scandals. However, the concept of tithing is not a new idea. Tithing dates all the way back to the Old Testament. Here is the first instance of tithes in the Bible:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Genesis 14:18-20

Abram honored God’s provision in their battle victory, and later God made this tithe part of his requirements to support the Levites. The Levite tribe of Jacob (later named Israel) consisted of appointed priests over the other tribes. With no assigned land in Canaan, they lived among the other tribes, supported by the other Israelites.

 I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting…I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord.

Numbers 18:21,24

Tithing in the Old Testament

In addition to the Levitical tithe, other tithes required by God occurred during the Feasts of Passover, Tabernacle, and Pentecost as a means to set aside money for the family’s food and provisions during their travels. God was teaching his people to save and plan ahead for how they would honor the Lord as a family.

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always

Deuteronomy 14:22-23

A third way the people of the Old Testament were asked to tithe was to give to the poor in their town, including the Levites, foreigners, fatherless, and widows. It was a way of collecting funds as a community to help those less fortunate.

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29

Tithing in the Gospels

When Jesus arrives in the New Testament, he begins teaching the Jewish people a new way of tithing. The Old Testament laws were very black and white, but when Jesus preaches, he challenges them to live as those with transformed hearts rather than blindly following a checklist.

He calls giving a sacrifice–it should affect you in some way. It will cost you something to make a difference in your own life as well as the lives of others. In addition, we should be cheerful as we do it! Here’s what Jesus had to say about these things:

 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 

Matthew 23:23

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Luke 21:1-4

Tithing in the First Churches

A new church era begins after Jesus’ death and resurrection. So when Christian practices replace Jewish traditions, Paul and others give instructions on how and when God asks them to tithe. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, he gives detailed instructions on practicing generosity:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 11-15

Other letters by church leaders challenge the church to give in this heart-focused way as well. They remind us that true generosity stems from the person’s love of God.

Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Hebrews 13:16

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Tithing in the Modern World

Some believe that tithing is not required of Christians since Jesus presented giving as a lifestyle rather than a strict tithe. However, I think that Jesus wasn’t letting us off the hook from the ten percent, rather he was challenging us to do more. He didn’t give us a number because that would defeat the whole purpose of giving with your whole heart.

While I don’t believe we are called to give so much that we ourselves are in need, he seems to be asking us to give more than the world gives. What are some ways you can challenge yourself to live more like Christ? What is something you can do today to become more of a cheerful giver or one who gives without seeking praise?

Could you also go above and beyond by tithing more than money? How could you give your time, talents, and resources to God and others as well? Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer at local community centers, shelters, food banks or other organizations that support causes you care about.
  • Share your expertise, such as tutoring kids, teaching a class, or providing other free professional services you’re skilled in.
  • Donate goods or items that charitable organizations need such as clothing, food, books, toys, or other necessities. Check to find out what items are in high demand.

You Might Also Like…

For more resources on how to steward your money well, check out:

Before you go, read even more posts like this here:

You’ve got this!

If you sign up here, then you can access my FREE Printable Library + receive 20% off your first purchase!