“Tithe” may be an unfamiliar word to you as it is not commonly used in secular society. However, it is a term used in both the Old and New Testaments. Since man is to live by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×; Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×), it is a subject that we need to know about and understand. This guide will help you to discover how “tithing” fits into God’s way of life and what specifically is known as “first tithe.”
The word “tithe” is an Old English word meaning “tenth.” Read Leviticus 27:32 Leviticus 27:32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to the LORD.
American King James Version×to confirm the meaning is the same in the Bible.
Before the Old Covenant
GENESIS 14:14-20: “Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his … trained servants … and went in pursuit ….He …and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah…. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods…. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him 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 gave him a tithe of all.”
COMMENT: This is the first mention of tithing in the Bible. This was before the “Old Covenant” which was given through Moses. This was before Jacob, later named Israel, was even born. This is an important fact to keep in mind.
1. Who owns everything on earth?
2. Whom does Melchizedek credit for Abram’s victory?
3. What was the act of worship of God that Abram performed in these verses?
4. What does this event imply about tithing being separate from the Old Covenant? Is this strictly a law for Jews?
COMMENT: Under the Old Covenant, the priests were taken only from the tribe of Levi. Here we see a priest, Melchizedek, receiving tithes who was not a Levite. Levi had not even been born yet. In fact, Levi’s grandfather had not been born! Before any laws regarding tithing were given to the ancient nation of Israel, people called of God were tithing. Clearly tithing did not originate with the Old Covenant and therefore does not automatically end when the Old Covenant ends.
5. Of what did Abram give a tithe? Was it only money? Was it only agricultural produce?
6. From these verses in Genesis 14, what can we learn about the purpose of tithing?
GENESIS 28:20-22: “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And … of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.’”
7. What was Jacob’s promise?
8. Was the tenth to be a one time gift, or did Jacob pledge to tithe as an ongoing practice?
9. What relationship, if any, does the practice of tithing show?
LEVITICUS 27:30: ” ‘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 to the LORD.’”
1. To whom does the tithe belong?
2. What does “holy” mean? Can we use something holy for any purpose we wish?
DEUTERONOMY 14:22: “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.”
3. One gives a tenth (tithe) of one’s increase. Explain what “increase” means in this context.
NUMBERS 18:20-21: “Then the LORD said to Aaron: ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.’”
4. What did God do with His tithe given Him by all Israelites?
NOTE: For convenience, we refer to this tithe as the “first tithe” in order to distinguish it from the other tithes referred to in the Bible (a “second tithe” being for use at God’s festivals, and a “third tithe” going twice out of seven years to the poor). The Bible does not use numbers to distinguish each of the tithes.
5. How was this practice changed when Jesus became our High Priest (Hebrews 5:1-6 Hebrews 5:1-6 1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said to him, You are my Son, to day have I begotten you.
6 As he said also in another place, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
American King James Version×, 9-10) following His resurrection?
Read I Corinthians 9:13-14 and comment.
COMMENT: As we have already seen, tithing was practiced prior to the establishment of the Levitical priesthood by the Old Covenant. So, it is not surprising that Paul uses the way the Levitical priesthood had its material needs provided as an example to show how the ministry is to be financed today. Melchizedek received tithes prior to Levi and Jesus is after the priestly order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:4-12 Hebrews 7:4-12 4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
5 And truly 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 brothers, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
11 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?
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
American King James Version×), so it is reasonable to conclude God’s tithe is now paid to Jesus Christ (via His ministers like Paul) to finance His work being done through the New Testament ministry today.
MATTHEW 23:23: “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.”
6. What did Jesus say about tithing? Were His disciples to pass on this teaching? (Read Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×and answer.)
MALACHI 3:8-10: “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.”
7. Which of the 10 Commandments does one break by not giving God His tithe?
8. What results from failing to tithe? What promise does God make to tithe-givers?
9. What can we learn about the purpose of tithing from these verses?
10. Some have criticized tithing by saying that it limits us to only giving a tenth. What does this verse instruct us to give? Does it place a limit on an amount?
PROVERBS 3:9: “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase.”
11. How can we demonstrate that we honor God?
12. How does tithing affect “materialism”?
13. Why would a person not want to tithe?
14. Do you think our attitude in giving is important? Read Matthew 6:1-4 Matthew 6:1-4 1 Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when you do your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.
3 But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does:
4 That your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret himself shall reward you openly.
American King James Version×and II Corinthians 9:7 and comment. Is paying the tithe against our will any better than not paying it at all? What do you think God wants us to learn by tithing?
15. What role, if any, does faith play in tithing?
1. What gives God the right to claim any portion of money we work for and produce?
2. Why would you WANT to tithe? Is giving a tenth an act of worship?
3. Explain how tithing is a partnership with God.
4. Israel was a nation; the Church is not. Does this fact change anything about how tithing is practiced today? If so, what is changed? Is tithing still a law?