If you grew up in the church, you’re well acquainted with “tithes and offerings.” The baskets are passed around, the music plays and everyone gives a little of their earnings to the church. But do you know the difference between tithes and offerings? They are two separate things! Perhaps you’ve struggled with the concept of tithing and don’t understand what it’s for. Here are a few things that may clear up this issue for you.
Tithing Originates in the Old Testament
Tithing was instituted as part of the Mosaic (Old Testament) law, given to the Israelite people. In Leviticus 27:30, it says: “a tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s, and is holy.” By giving a tenth of the land’s produce, Israelite people were giving of their earnings, what we today would consider our wage or salary.
Tithing is not specifically referenced in the New Testament, and because of this, many people think it has passed away for those of us who are in Christ. However, this misses an important point about tithing: It’s a matter of the heart! God’s Mosaic law was meant to teach Israel how to live in a way that reflects God’s values, but when their hearts were not directed toward God, they didn’t obey Him. In the same way, New Testament believers have a better view of tithing when they see it not as a “rule,” but as a way to give back to God what He’s given to us.
The Difference Between Tithing and Giving
Tithing is the giving of our “first fruits,” the tenth of our living that tells God He belongs first in our lives. Giving is anything after that, and can take the form of talents, time or money. Tithing is specifically monetary (or, in Israel’s case, the donation of things with monetary worth).
That’s why giving is above and beyond tithing, and can take many different forms. When you’re already trusting God with a tenth of your income, anything after that comes from the generosity of your heart.
Why Tithing Can Be a Good Idea
Why would tithing be a good idea? First, it puts you in a position to see God as your ultimate provider. We tend to be very independent and can see our income as directly related to OUR work—not God’s. But God gives and takes away our blessings in His time, and we are not in control of the ultimate outcome. Secondly, tithing cultivates a generous spirit when it’s done out of a heart that loves God.
Giving a tenth of our income is giving the “first fruits” of our harvest. It’s a way of saying thank you for the jobs we work and the blessings we’re given. It also teaches us to look to God for our provision, and to handle our finances in a way that we can live on 90% of our income. As Dave Ramsey wisely pointed out, “If you can’t live off 90% of your income, then you’re probably struggling to live off 100% anyway, and that means you have bigger financial problems you need to address.”
Should you tithe only to the church? Personally, I tithe both to the church and to a Christian organization that helps widows and orphans (a biblical concept!). The point is that you’re stepping out in faith, trusting God’s provision and giving your money to help the cause of Christ.