A close-up shot of a well-worn Bible, open to a passage in Malachi 3:10, highlighting the verse that speaks about tithing.

What Does The Bible Say About Tithing?

Giving a tithe, or 10% of one’s income, to the church is a practice that dates back thousands of years. In the Bible, tithing was commanded by God as a way for the Israelites to support the Levites and priests.

If you’re short on time, here’s the essence of what the Bible says about tithing: Tithing was required under Mosaic law in the Old Testament, but is not explicitly commanded in the New Testament. However, New Testament scriptures do speak of cheerful and generous financial giving to support Christian ministry.

Old Testament Commands to Tithe

Tithes Supported the Levites and Priests

The Old Testament provides clear instructions that a tithe, or 10% of one’s income and harvest, should be set aside to support the Levites and priests (Numbers 18:21-24). As they did not receive a plot of land like the other tribes of Israel, the Levites and priests depended on these tithe contributions for their livelihood.

The tithes not only provided food, income and resources for themselves, but also enabled them to continue working in the tabernacle and later the temple, serving God and instructing people in His ways.

This command to tithe to the Levites shows how God provided an organized system to sustain religious worship and instruction in ancient Israelite society.

Tithing was an ingrained practice in Israelite culture. A few key biblical passages outline these commands (Deuteronomy 14:22, Leviticus 27:30). Israelites presenting their tithes at the sanctuary reinforced a spirit of thankfulness and reverence towards God.

As an agrarian society, setting aside the first fruits of their harvest was a tangible reminder that all good things ultimately came from the Lord. While tithing clearly benefitted the priests, it also benefitted the giver by developing an attitude of gratitude, generosity and trust in God.

Tithing Showed Reverence and Thanksgiving to God

The tithing system ordained by God produced a win-win situation. The Levites and priests were sustained with ample provision to focus on spiritual duties, while the common Israelite developed more gratitude, reverence and reliance upon God.

The very act of tithing assumed that the remaining 90% of the harvest would be sufficient provision from the Lord. Especially in years of bountiful crops, the first fruits offering epitomized thanksgiving to the Creator and Giver of all things.

A free online resource with more details is the overview article “What Does the Bible Say About Tithing” on LearnReligions.com. Surveys indicate that less than 10% of Christians today regularly tithe their income.

However, of those that faithfully tithe, most testify to manifold blessings – both spiritual and material – as a result of honoring God with the first tenth of their increase.

Jesus and Tithing

Jesus Affirmed Continued Tithing

In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed the practice of tithing by stating that people should not neglect it (Matthew 23:23). He criticized the Pharisees for being legalistic about tithing tiny garden herbs yet neglecting “the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith.”

However, he stated they should have practiced the former without neglecting the latter. So Jesus made it clear that tithing should continue, while also prioritizing love, mercy and justice.

Jesus seemed to view tithing as an important way for believers to honor God. The practice predates the Mosaic Law, going all the way back to Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 14:20, 28:22). As an eternal principle, Jesus affirmed its continuity for disciples under the new covenant.

While some argue tithing was only for Israel under the Old Covenant, Jesus’ words suggest it transcends covenants, just as moral laws against murder and adultery do.

Jesus Criticized Legalistic Tithing

While affirming tithing, Jesus criticized the legalistic way the Pharisees practiced it. They went to extreme lengths to give a tenth of every tiny garden herb yet didn’t prioritize loving God and people (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42).

Jesus’ critique wasn’t against tithing itself, but against using it hypocritically or legalistically.

This distinction is crucial when understanding Jesus’ approach. He affirmed regular tithing yet warned against obsessing over minor details without concern for relationships. Motive and attitude are key.

Tithing should come from a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7), not a legalistic box-checking mentality. It’s less about percentages and more about stewarding all we have generously for God’s Kingdom work.

Tithing in the Early Church

Giving Was Voluntary, But Encouraged

In the early Christian church, giving was seen as a voluntary act of worship rather than an obligation. The New Testament encourages generous giving, but does not command believers to tithe a specific percentage of their income (2 Corinthians 9:7).

However, many early Christians joyfully gave sacrificially to support the church and aid those in need.

The Didache, an early Christian text, states “Give to everyone who asks you, and ask it not back.” Clement of Rome, an early church father, praised the willing spirit of the Corinthian church in giving to relieve the urgent needs of other churches.

Examples like this show that voluntary and generous giving was seen as a virtue in early Christianity.

Giving Expressed Unity and Equality

Giving also enabled unity and equality in the early church. Christians would pool their resources to meet each other’s needs and provide for the poor among them. Paul collected an offering from Gentile churches to bring relief to poorer Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27).

This demonstrated the unity of the one church across ethnicities and economic backgrounds.

Justin Martyr, an early apologist, wrote that weekly offerings were collected and “distributed to the orphans and widows, and those who through sickness or any other cause are in want.” This practice was an outflow of the communal ethos of the early church and their care for vulnerable people in their midst.

New Testament Principles for Giving

Give Cheerfully and Generously

The New Testament encourages believers to give cheerfully and generously to support Christian ministry and help those in need (2 Corinthians 9:7). As the apostle Paul wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver.”

We should not feel obligated to give, but rather have a willing heart to give freely as God has blessed us. Generous giving also reflects our gratitude for God’s generous grace to us in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Give According to Ability

Followers of Jesus are encouraged to give financially to the Lord’s work in proportion to how God has prospered them (1 Corinthians 16:2). Those who have more financial resources are able to give more than others.

The widow’s mites were highlighted not because of the amount she gave but because she gave sacrificially out of her poverty (Luke 21:1-4). We should thoughtfully and prayerfully decide on an amount to give based on the financial resources God has given us.

Give to Support Christian Ministry

In the early church, giving financially was a practical way for believers to support gospel ministry. For example, the Philippian church supported Paul’s missionary work while he preached to them (Philippians 4:15-17).

On another occasion, believers in Macedonia gave abundantly amid their own poverty to help Christians suffering from famine in Judea (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Financial giving enables ministries to continue their work and helps fellow believers in need.

The principles of grace-filled, proportionate, and ministry-focused giving seen in the New Testament can guide Christians today in honoring God with their finances. Websites like GotQuestions.org provide further biblical perspective on giving as an act of worship and sharing God’s resources with others.


While the New Testament does not explicitly command Christians to tithe, it does encourage generous and cheerful giving to support ministry. So while giving 10% is not required, it can be a good guideline for supporting church and ministry financially.

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