Tithing: What Is It?

Our loving Creator is very generous, giving us all we need for life on a beautiful earth. He teaches tithing, a giving way for us to acknowledge Him.

What is tithing? It sounds old-fashioned, but in fact it’s the most fundamental key to financial stability and the blessing of Almighty God. Simply defined, it is the practice of giving to God a tenth of one’s productive income, to honor Him. Tithing is described in the pages of the Bible, where certain blessings and promises are attached to it.

The history of tithing

Tithing has a rich and distinguished history. The first tithe-giver mentioned in Scripture is Abraham, the one called the father of the faithful in the New Testament.

Notice what he did as he returned from battle: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abram] and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:18-20).

Lessons from Abraham’s example

Let’s note a few interesting details about this account. First, Abraham (then called Abram) gave a tenth even in the midst of instability and turmoil. This was a time of great conflict between city-states in the ancient world. Abraham’s own nephew Lot had become embroiled in those conflicts, making necessary a rescue operation (Genesis 14:14-16). Yet the fact that times were tough didn’t stop him from tithing.

Second, Abraham tithed to a priest of God Most High called “Melchizedek” (verse 18). In the New Testament much is said about Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-17), and about his priesthood. For our purposes, however, we should note that Abraham gave a tenth to one who was a true servant of God and who represented Him. By doing that, he set us an example.

Commanded and practiced

Later we read of another of the patriarchs, Jacob, giving a tenth to God (Genesis 28:22). And after that, with the formation of the nation of Israel, God’s people were commanded to give Him the tenth (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21). It was this system that made possible the administration of the nation, both in priestly and judicial matters.

As the Old Testament era came to a close, a prophet of God delivered a searing indictment against God’s people for their failure to follow this law.

Notice God’s words recorded by the prophet Malachi: “‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (Malachi 3:8-10).

Stealing from God?

Robbing God? These are strong words indeed, but they highlight the fact that the tithe belongs to God, the One who gives us our strength and intelligence, and life itself. Not to give a tenth is thievery against our Creator.

Note, too, that obeying this law brings a blessing. Once we involve our Creator in our financial affairs, He becomes our partner and guarantor. He then pours out the blessing and ensures our financial stability.

Tithing in New Testament times

In New Testament times, Jesus Christ the Savior upheld the importance of tithing when He declared, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23).

The apostle Paul followed the same teaching when he described the need for the New Testament ministry to live off the gospel. “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). So God’s tenth provides funds for the preaching of the gospel and for the sustenance of those who are ministers of the gospel.

As the book of Hebrews explains, with the coming of Jesus Christ, the priesthood of the Levites reverted back to the priesthood of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-14), a name and function of the preincarnate Christ. This change required a change in how tithing is administered (Hebrews 7:12), with tithes now being collected by the ministers of Jesus Christ who serve the Church of God. God’s tenth thus provides funds for the preaching of the gospel and for the sustenance of those who are ministers of the gospel.

So, what is tithing? It is a blessing from God. Let’s remember God’s challenge, to “try Me now in this” (Malachi 3:10). In other words, check it out; prove it by experience. Receive the blessing that comes from tithing. Make God your financial partner and help bring stability to your family’s finances.

Read more on Christian money management in the “Finances” section.

About the Author

Eric Evans

Eric Evans

Eric Evans pastors the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, congregations in Knoxville, Tennessee; London, Kentucky; and Asheville, North Carolina. He went to Laurence Institute of Technology for engineering, then attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1986.

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