What the Bible says about tithing

In any study of the Scriptures we must ask questions of the passage or passages: what, who, where, when and why. Basically any and every question that can be asked needs to be asked. We need to set aside any previous assumptions of the doctrine and look with no bias at the Scriptures on the matter.

#1. What was the tithe?

  1. The Meaning.

    The Hebrew word is "Ma`aser" (Mah-as-ayr`). Which means: tithe, tenth part

    1. tenth part
    2. tithe, payment of a tenth part

    So the tithe or "Ma`aser" means "a tenth".

  2. The Content.

    What did God command the children of Israel to tithe?

    "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 unto the LORD." Leviticus 27:30
    "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:" Deuteronomy 12:17
    "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year." Deuteronomy 14:22
    "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." Deuteronomy 14:23
    "And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage."
    Nehemiah 10:37
    "Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries." Nehemiah 13:12

    So the content of the tithe was the produce of the ground. So you might say, wasn't that their income, their currency, their means of trade if you will? Well lets see if the Scripture answers this question.

    "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." Deuteronomy 14:24-27

    So according to this passage the tithe was not money, the tithe was the produce of the ground. There was a distinct difference between the content of the tithe and the currency of the day.

#2 Who

  1. Who was to give the tithe?

    "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel..."
    Leviticus 27:1, 2a
    "These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai." Leviticus 27:34
    "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."
    Numbers 18:24
    "Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe."
    Numbers 18:26
    "And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps."
    2 Chronicles 31:5-6
    "Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries."
    Nehemiah 13:12
    "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:"
    Hebrews 7:5

    So the ones who were to bring the tithe were the children of Israel.

    Note: the first two references in this section have tithing in there contexts

  2. To whom was the tithe to be given?

    "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."
    Numbers 18:21
    "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." And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die." Numbers 18:24-27
    "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:"
    Hebrews 7:5
    So the tithe was to be given to the Levites.

#3. Where?

Where was the tithe to be brought?

"These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth."
Deuteronomy 12:1
"But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:"
Deuteronomy 12:6
"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."
Deuteronomy 14:23
"And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage."
Nehemiah 10:37

The tithe was to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

#4 When?

How often was the tithe to be brought?

"Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed,
that the field bringeth forth year by year."
Deuteronomy 14:22
"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;"
Deuteronomy 26:12

So they were to bring their tithes once a year and every third year they were to set aside the tithe for the Levite, stranger, orphan and widow in their town.

#5 Why?

Why were the people to bring the tithe?

"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."
Numbers 18:21
"And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation."
Numbers 18:31
"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;"
Deuteronomy 26:12

So the main reason for the tithe was to provide for the priests so that they could remain in the temple and do the duties of the temple. The secondary reason is so that they could provide for the needy.

"Well!" you may say, "aren't the priests a picture of pastors and the temple a picture of the church building?" Well, let's see what the Scripture has to say.

#1 What (or Who) were the priests a picture of?

"And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore."
Hebrews 7:23-28
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Hebrews 10:11-14

So the priests were a picture of Jesus Christ.

Just as a side note... Do you remember in the "Why" section what the main reason was for the people to bring the tithe? Yep, you guessed it. It was to provide for the priests so that they could remain in the temple and offer sacrifices on behalf of their sins and the sins of the people. But Jesus as our new High Priest does not need to offer sacrifices for His and the people's sins. First because He is sinless and second because he already offered Himself and thirdly He does not need food or drink sense He lives forever in a glorified body.

#2 What was the temple a picture of?

"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."
Hebrews 9:1-5
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:"
Hebrews 9:24

So according to these passages the temple in Jerusalem was a picture of Heaven.

"Well, what about Malachi chapter 3?" you may say. "If the temple in Jerusalem was not a picture of the church then maybe the storehouse is." Well let's look at Malachi chapter 3 and see what it says.

"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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts." Malachi 3:8-12

The first thing we must look at in this passage is who is this written to? Well according to verse 1 the "you" if you will look at the context is Israel. Secondly when He says "In tithes and offerings" what was that? If you will look back at the "what" section you will see that the "content" is the produce of the ground and the offerings are the sacrificial offerings of animals. Thirdly, "you are cursed with a curse". Are we cursed in Christ?

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,
being made a curse for us: for it is written,
Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:" Galatians 3:13

Fourthly, "the whole nation of you". What nation? Israel! Fifthly, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse"

What was the Storehouse?

"Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD. And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps. In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store. Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them, And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next." 2 Chronicles 31:4-12

So the storehouse was established to "store" the tithe of grain' new wine and oil so that it wouldn't remain just sitting out on the grass.

Another thing that tells me that the storehouse was not a picture of the church building is the fact that no one was allowed to dwell in the storehouse, no one was allowed to live there.

"And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests. But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense."
Nehemiah 13:4-9

So according to that passage dwelling in the storehouse was forbidden. If you will go back and look at the context you will see that because of that the priests ran out of food and therefore had to return to the fields to grow their food, and because of that they could not continue in the service of the temple, so when it was restored they were able to perform their duties.

Back to Malachi... The next thing mentioned is "So that there may be food in my house". If you will look back at "the Content" you will see that the tithe was always eatable.

"In My house..." What is the only place in the Bible considered "the house of the Lord"?

You can do a study on this subject but the only place that was considered "the house of the Lord" was the temple in Jerusalem. And since the temple was (as we looked at) a picture of heaven then the only place today you can rightfully call the house of the Lord would be heaven.

  • Nehemiah 10:37
  • Deuteronomy 14:23
  • Deuteronomy 12:5
  • Deuteronomy 14:24,25
  • Isaiah 56:7
  • Isaiah 66:20
  • Jeremiah 7:10-11,14,30

There are many more references to the house of the Lord in the old testament and if you will look they are all in reference to the temple. But Jesus puts them all together in the new testament…

"And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."
Matthew 21:13
"And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.... And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
Luke 2:46, 49

In Matthew and in Luke He's in the temple and in both places He calls it God's house, or His Father's house. I find it ironic that the only other place that Jesus mentions His Fathers house is in reference to Heaven…

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2

Well what about Abraham? Didn't he give a tithe to Melchizedek before the law? And if it was before the law then it does not pertain to the law and we should still give it right? Well lets see…

"And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all." Genesis 14:14-20

Now clearly according to these verses Abram gave a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek.

"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; ... Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." Hebrews 7:2,4

This is the only recorded time that Abram gave anything to Melchizedek. He gave that one time and no other. Also in this passage there is no command. Abram gave what he purposed in his own heart to give. (no percentage command for us there.)

Many would say, "What about all of those verses in the Bible that talk about giving, shouldn't we give?" Absolutely! The Bible does talk about giving and we should, but giving is not the same as tithing. According to the Scriptures tithing has been done away with.

"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. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar." Hebrews 7:8-13

There is no more temple in Jerusalem, there are no more Levitical priests, Christ is now our High Priest. The picture is finished. We should give, but not as though there is a specific amount.

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart,
so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:
for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7

If someone gives grudgingly or of necessity then it is something he's expected or required to give, like a percentage. But God does not want us to give that way He wants us to give from the heart. If someone wants to give 10 percent to their local church then great, but don't tell everyone else that it is a command of God because its not.

Well, where did the modern day teaching of tithing come from?

Tithing was not adopted by the Catholic, Christian church for over seven centuries. Although initially rejected, it was mentioned in councils at Tours in 567 A.D. and at Macon in 585 A.D. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787 A.D. It was NOT practiced by the new testament believers until then. JR

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