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Tithing

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To “tithe” means “to give or take the tenth of.” In Scripture it refers to giving a tenth of “all the increase” (Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
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) derived from one's produce, property or income for the support of a religious purpose. The motivation to tithe is a worshipful recognition of God as the Creator and Possessor of the entire universe and everything in it, including ourselves.

Although tithing became a codified, or written, law under the covenant God made with ancient Israel at Mount Sinai, it was historically practiced among those who were faithful to God before that covenant. Abraham, after defeating a coalition of kings who had kidnapped his nephew, tithed on the spoils of the war to Melchizedek, priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-22 Genesis 14:18-22 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all. 21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself. 22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand to the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
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).

Abraham obviously understood giving a tenth as the appropriate way to honor God with one's physical possessions. It is also noteworthy that Abraham gave the tenth to Melchizedek, a representative of the Creator God. (In fact, this same Melchizedek was the divine Word who was later born in the flesh as Jesus Christ, as is shown in Hebrews 7:1-3 Hebrews 7:1-3 1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 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; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually.
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.)

Abraham recognized the underlying premise for giving a tithe to God: He is the actual “Possessor of heaven and earth” who made his victory and all blessings possible.

God reminds us throughout the Bible, and people of God respectfully acknowledge, that everything belongs to God (Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:5Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
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; Job 41:11 Job 41:11Who has prevented me, that I should repay him? whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
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; Psalms 24:1 Psalms 24:1The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
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; 50:12; Haggai 2:8 Haggai 2:8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, said the LORD of hosts.
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). “And you shall remember the Lord your God,” Moses told Israel, “for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18 Deuteronomy 8:18But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
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). Tithing is thus, first and foremost, an act of worshipful recognition of God as our source of existence, blessing and providence.

Jacob also followed the example of his grandfather Abraham. When God reconfirmed to him the promises He had made to Abraham, Jacob promised God, “Of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth [or tithe] to You” (Genesis 28:20-22 Genesis 28:20-22 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that you shall give me I will surely give the tenth to you.
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).

The practice of tithing was later incorporated into the covenant with Israel as a written law. The tribe of Levi, devoted to the nation's religious service and not given an inheritance of land from which to derive increase (Numbers 18:23 Numbers 18:23But 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.
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), was to receive the tithe of Israel's agricultural produce in return for its service. The Levites, based on what they had received in tithes from the people, in turn tithed to the priestly family of Aaron (verses 26-28).

As time passed, the tithe was carelessly neglected. Following the Jewish return from Babylonian exile, God corrected the nation over this matter in the strongest of terms (Malachi 3:8-10 Malachi 3:8-10 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said 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.
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). Failure to tithe, God said, was tantamount to robbing Him, and the people were consequently cursed. Yet He also promised that renewed obedience in tithing would result in blessings from Him so abundant that “there [would] not be room enough to receive it.”

Actually, God said here that the people robbed him in “tithes and offerings”—showing that they were expected to give additional offerings beyond their tithe, the amounts of which were personally determined. Offerings could be given at any time but were specifically required during God's festival seasons, when each was to give as he was able, in accordance with the blessings he had received from God (Deuteronomy 16:16-17 Deuteronomy 16:16-17 16 Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the LORD your God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.
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).

Several centuries later, Jesus Himself clearly upheld the practice of tithing, stating: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [garden herbs], 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 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
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).

Rather than abolishing the practice of tithing, Christ plainly confirmed His will that tithing should indeed be practiced in even seemingly minor aspects of one's increase, along with sincere adherence to other “weightier [or more important] matters” they were obviously neglecting.

As tithes and offerings in Israel were given to the tribe of Levi for their livelihood and service to God, the Church in the first century provided financial support for Christ's ministers to carry out their work. Instances of and principles relating to this practice are found in several passages (see Luke 10:1 Luke 10:1After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, where he himself would come.
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, 7-8; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 7 Who goes a warfare any time at his own charges? who plants a vineyard, and eats not of the fruit thereof? or who feeds a flock, and eats not of the milk of the flock? 8 Say I these things as a man? or said not the law the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen? 10 Or said he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plows should plow in hope; and that he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14 Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
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; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 7 Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brothers which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so will I keep myself.
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; Philippians 4:14-18 Philippians 4:14-18 14 Notwithstanding you have well done, that you did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now you Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.
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; Hebrews 7).

In Deuteronomy 14 we see the practice of tithing required for two other purposes—having the means to attend and celebrate God's festivals (verses 22-27) and caring for the poor and needy (verses 28-29). Since we believe in observing God's festivals (listed in Leviticus 23) and we believe in taking care of the poor and needy, we acknowledge the continuity of the tithing described for these purposes.

The United Church of God teaches that tithing remains a universal law and that one's willing obedience to this law reflects the unselfish, giving nature of our Creator and Provider (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 6 But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
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).

Concerning administration of this law, it is the duty of the Church to teach people to tithe, but it is the responsibility of the individual to obey. Tithing is a personal matter of faith between the individual and his Creator.

We teach that anyone devoted to following God should obey Him in this fundamental way, but it is not appointed to the Church to enforce and regulate tithe-paying. Because of the economic complexities in today's societies, the Church regularly receives many technical questions about tithing, and we seek to provide wise administrative guidelines according to God's will and direction.

Regarding voluntary giving beyond the tithing that God requires, He desires that we be generous with the blessings He's given us—willing to help others through contributing to the work of His Church in proclaiming His truth and caring for the needs of members. And we are to help the needy we encounter as we are able. Scripture shows that while we must properly provide for our families and be wise stewards of our resources, we are also to be giving and caring people.

Through tithing and additional voluntary offerings that spring from willing and cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 6 But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
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), we both honor God and support the physical means for doing His work of proclaiming the gospel to the world and making disciples among all the nations (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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; 28:19-20). God has provided the perfect financial system, which takes care of the needs of His work, the personal need to attend His festivals and the need to care for the poor.

For more details, read What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing?

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