Tithing Then and Now – do we tithe like the Israelites?

Tithing Then and Now – do we tithe like the Israelites?

I’ve attended a variety of denominations of the Christian Church. They include the Methodist Church, the Uniting Church, the Salvation Army and Australia Christian Churches. All of them have a few common factors including Jesus, Protestantism and Tithing. This blog explores ‘Tithing then and now’.

tithing then and now - shows banknotes from Australia including 50 and 100 notes
Image is from https://mypolice.qld.gov.au/wynnum/2018/01/23/lost-money-scam-eligible-refund/

Definition of Tithing

For a Christian, a tithe is giving back to God 1/10th of what you have received. The Salvation Army has a giving program named ‘planned giving’. They ask that all church members pledge a tithe, and they provide each member with an update of ‘amount pledged’ and ‘amount received’. I found it similar to receiving overdue notices from companies. I currently worship at Rise Church, Northgate, and their giving procedures are less confronting. Just give, and it is between you and God, and no promises and no followup. They don’t pass around the collection plate during the worship services.

Tithing in the Bible

To explore ‘Tithing then and now’ the starting point is the ‘then’. And the following are verses relating to tithing and the Israelites. Click here to skip the Bible verses and continue with the paraphrasing.

Leviticus 27:30-33 New International Version (NIV)
“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.’”

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 New International Version (NIV)
But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:10-12 New International Version (NIV)
But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

Deuteronomy 12:17-18 New International Version (NIV)
You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 New International Version (NIV)
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. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.

Deuteronomy 12:19 New International Version (NIV)
Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

Deuteronomy 14:27-29 New International Version (NIV)
And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 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 26:12-13 New International Version (NIV)
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

Deuteronomy 26:14 New International Version (NIV)
I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me.

Deuteronomy 14:23 New International Version (NIV)
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 14:29 New International Version (NIV)
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.

Paraphrasing God’s commandments of tithing as told to the Israelites

  • One-tenth of all your income and anything else that comes your way as a result of your work belongs to God. (Leviticus 27:30)
  • Take 10% of this amount, which belongs to God, spend it on yourself and your family. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 12:10-12; Deuteronomy 12:17-19; Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
  • Support those who have been called into ministry and those that are poor, and give them the tithe every 3rd year. Do not spend this on
    yourself and your family, but give it to the called and the poor (Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; Deuteronomy 26:12:13)
  • 10% of what you receive is God’s holy tithe, and you must not use it for any unclean thing, that is, for anything, but for what I have commanded you. (Deuteronomy 26:14)
  • Observe the commandments about tithing and God will bless you and you will prosper you in everything that you do. (Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 14:29)

Do we do the same with our Tithes?

It would seem that the Israelites used their tithes to have a great time with their family and friends. While ensuring the tithes were not spent on anything unclean. And to ensure that every third year the tithes were used to support those called to ministry and the poor.

Many churches expect to be given a tithe every week, rather than how the tithes were treated by the Israelites. It would seem that churches take the idea of a tithe, mention it is biblical, and then stray from the instructions about tithing. Why?

Tithing literally!

If someone truly wants to tithe according to Scripture, he/she would need to do the following…

  • Quit their job and buy a farm so that they can raise herds and
    grow crops
  • Find Levitical priests to support
  • Use their crops to observe the Old Testament religious festivals
    such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles
  • Expect God to curse them with material deprivation if they were
    unfaithful or bless them with material abundance if they were
    obedient

This sounds absurd as the majority of Christians are not able to partake in these activities. Jesus has done away with the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices. Tithing needs to be adjusted to suit our culture.

Tithing Now

God didn’t require the Israelites to give 10% of their income every year to the Levites and the poor. It was every three years. On average 3.33% of an Israelites income was the support the Levites and the poor. Why do the majority of churches suggest 10%?

Australia is a lucky country, and we have a government department named ‘Centrelink’. They provide financial assistance to Aussies that are facing financial hardship. One-third of all taxes collected in Australia are used to fund these payments. The average full-time adult wage in 2018 is over $80,000 per year. And these workers pay income tax of $18,0000, and $6,000 is given to Centrelink. These workers provide the poor with 7.5% of their income. As you can see, the typical Aussie Christian is already supporting the poor above and beyond the requirements of tithing.

I am fortunate to be able to sponsor three children from Mexico and Brazil via Compassion. And this also comes into the calculations for a tithe today. It costs me around 1.5% of my income.

Summing Up

10% of a Christian’s income going towards the purposes of God is still a good measure. Between the time of the Israelites and now, there have been two significant changes in society. 1) Rather than being primary producers, we get paid to work 2) We are taxed to support the poor. An average earning Christian adult in Australia already provides 7.5% of their income to the poor. The biblical tithe of giving to the poor and the church only requires 3.33%.

There are a number of other factors in today’s society which need to be taken into account 1) Churches are expensive to operate 2) The gap between the rich and the poor has increased, particularly in countries like Australia. Although the average Australian Christian may already be achieving a biblical tithe via taxes, providing another 10% to the church may be necessary for churches to survive. And thrive.


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