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“God expects us to give not as an afterthought, but as our top financial priority.”, – Alex Cook

What is the Tithe?

Apr 6, 2016 | Honor God With Your Tithes, MINISTRY, Stewardship | 0 comments

What is the tithe

Tithing is probably still the most controversial topic in the Church today. Some say it only applies during Old Testament times. However, others believe it is still relevant and should still be practised today. No wonder the disagreements, everyone has their opinion about its application. Today, let’s lay some foundation to clearly understand what is the tithe. Simply put, the word tithe means “tenth”. But the tenth… of what?

What is the tithe?

  • The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes the tithe as “the custom of giving a tenth part of products of the land and of the spoils of war. Moreso, these should be given to the priests.” It is an ancient Jewish tradition long before the institution of the Mosaic Law (Genesis 14:17-20, Genesis 28:22, and 1 Samuel 8:15,17).
  • The Encyclopedia Americana defines the tithe as “the tenth part of produce or other income, paid voluntarily or under the compulsion of law. It is for the benefit of religious institutions, the support of priests and pastors, and the relief of those in need.”
  • The Encyclopedia of Religion cites, “In the ancient Near East lie the origins of a sacred offering or payment of the tenth part of stated goods or property to the deity. The ‘tenth’ was usually approximate, not exact. The practice is known from Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, Greece and as far to the west as the Phoenician city of Carthage.”
  • The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible defines tithe as “The tenth part of one’s income consecrated to God. The separation of a certain proportion of the products or the spoils of war as a tribute to their gods. The Lydians offered a tithe of their booty. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sent a tithe annually to the Tyrian Hercules. These tithes might be regular or occasional, voluntary or prescribed by law.”

Tithing, in the Bible

is a practice that existed long before the Mosaic Law was enforced.

  • Dr. Russel Earl Kelly, in his book, Should the Church Teach Tithing?: A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine, explains that the tithe is of pagan origin. Further, it precedes the Mosaic Law’s tithe for many centuries.
  • In Genesis 41:34 Joseph encouraged the Egyptians to double their tithe in order to cover the lean years.
  • In Genesis 14 Abraham was obligated to pay a tithe from the spoils of war in obedience to the Arab war custom.
  • In New Testament times the Roman Empire received the first tithe of ten per cent of grains and twenty per cent of fruit trees. These were from its conquered subjects, including Judah.
  • Lastly, we also learn that the tithe is applied to everything, which included grains, fruits and other properties (land, cattle and even spoils of war).

Now that we know its meaning, let us understand why God required tithing in the Old Testament. And just like any part of the Jewish laws, let’s learn why God is very serious about tithing. And why it was ingrained into them from childhood.

Why does God consider tithing an act of obedience and not just some “nice thing” to do once in a while? 


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