What is tithing?

What do you think of when you think of tithing? Most of us are familiar with the term. But what does it really mean? And more importantly, what does it mean to us personally? 

What is tithe in the Bible; what does “tithe” mean?

Biblically, a tithe means a tenth. Which even by definition is different from an offering.

We see the first tithe in Genesis when Abraham gives a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek, King of Salem, a mysterious, enigmatic Canaanite priest of the Most High God. Abraham’s tithe was a thankful, joyful response to Melchizedek’s blessing. (Genesis 14:17-20) 

Money—finances—is a charged topic. The tricky thing is that everyone has different takes on it: how to spend it, what it means to them, how we should go about acquiring it. Even what people, places and things we should invest in or should give back to are up for debate.

business hand putting coins in glass jar

“Where your treasure is…”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:1, that where our treasure is, that is where our heart is. 

Most of us have disordered loves. And loving the right thing but wrongly can be just as bad as loving the entirely wrong thing!

Think about the things you give yourself to, for a moment. Perhaps you love a certain coffee, or a special something to eat. Maybe you love it so much that you drive long distances to enjoy it. You might pay a little more to have the experience.

One could say that your heart is on coffee, it is a desire of your heart! To love coffee, and invest in a special roast is not a sin. But if you were to put your love of coffee above everything…one could say that you have a disordered love. 

What should tithe money be used for?

Tithing and giving has been caught in the crossfires of disordered love. So often our views on finances and giving are grossly out of balance.

In recent times, we are faced with many false prosperity gospels and celebrity “pastors” decked out in luxury. They make the common folk wonder where their gift, given in good faith, really went. 

These abuses of power, influence, and finances are serious insults to the Lord and to His flock. Those who abuse ministry and use it for their personal gain and ambition will be judged accordingly. It may seem like they are “getting away with it”. However, they will be judged by the Lord, to a higher standard than the common believer (James 3:1).

Financial abuse in the church can discourage giving entirely. But despite what many pastors would have you believe, you are not commanded in the Bible to give all of our tithes and offerings to a specific pastor or place of worship. Whatever gifts you give to your place of worship should accurately reflect the value you place on it and your role there. 

What does the Bible say about wages?

But there are also people who believe those in ministry should not have any nice or decent things. They disapprove of any lifestyle that is above poverty. This idea of a martyr missionary or pastor is equally disordered. Everyone is worth the value of their work and their fair dues. 

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” But we can also understand from this verse that the one has worked, should eat. The worker is  worthy of his fair reward.

Jesus reiterates this in the parable of workers, in which the vineyard master decides in his heart to pay what is right and fair (Matthew 20:6).

Biblical Examples of Tithing

We also see Jacob giving a tithe to the Lord in response to the miraculous dream experienced as he slept with a rock for his pillow. 

“So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made 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 clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Genesis 28:18-22

Friends talking at cafe table during coffee break. Unrecognizable male and female colleagues discussing business issues, focus on coffee cup with saucer and teaspoon

Tithing and the Israelites

After Moses receives the Law and the Ten Commandments, the Israelites are commanded to give a tenth of their provisions back to the Lord:

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD. One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” These are the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.” Leviticus 27:30-34

Kinds of Tithes in the Old Testament

Tithing also served the purpose of provision for the Levitical priesthood. Those priests were to dedicate their lives entirely to the Lord and the priestly office. Even of their earnings, the Levites were commanded to tithe ten percent of this provision back to God, too. 

“To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.” Numbers 18:21

There was also an additional tithe to support the jubilee, and another reserved for widows, orphans and the poor. (Deuteronomy 14:29) 

Does the Bible tells us to tithe today?

The New Testament continues teaching on stewardship and generosity, although not specifically about tithing. Each believer is encouraged to give generously and cheerfully what they have decided in their heart to give (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

We can see in the New Testament that generosity of the faithful is what supported the ministries of Jesus and Paul. Paul collected offerings from his missionary journeys to support the believers in need in Jerusalem.

Paul instructs the believers there to sow generously, but not to give under compulsion. 

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, 


Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:5-10) 

woman's hands while reading the Bible.

Tithing, Finances and Worship

Ultimately, giving away our funds, as we are able and willing, is an act of worship. It demonstrates our faith and trust that God will provide for all of our needs and return to us what we give to him.

By giving of our time and talents, we align our hearts with kingdom purposes. If you would like to be part of expanding Kingdom work in Israel, we have an idea for you. Consider the 1% challenge. 

Giving ‘To the Jew First’

In his letter to Romans, Paul wrote: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans. 1:16). We all know this verse and we love this verse! But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say: “to the Jew first…”

There is spiritual power in prioritizing what God says to put first. He chose Israel to receive His law first. His son came to the Jewish people first. The Creator planned for the Gospel to come out of Jerusalem. 

God links the Jewish people with the Church in His Great Commission and to fulfill His Word. The Good News needs to reach both Israel and the nations. It will go “…to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”

By giving “to the Jew first”, we honor God’s design. We bless the people He chose, and we seek the fulfillment of His promises. We also show that we prioritize what He prioritizes! 

What is the 1% Challenge according to Romans 1:16?

“To the Jew first” is not just a principle from the words of Scripture. It is the heart of God radiating forth in our generation.

Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Texas said:

“I really believe that one of the greatest blessings Gateway Church has ever experienced is because we take the gospel to the Jew first and we bless Israel. We took a tithe of the tithe.

In other words, 1% of our budget [goes] to ministries reaching the Jews with the Gospel. We give that money to ministries who are blessing Israel.”

“I’m very excited to be a part of Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries,” said Pastor Robert Morris. “I want you to pray about being a part of it. I want you to pray about getting 1% of your budget to bless it!”

Hand putting coin on coins stack with Concept

Hudson Taylor and ‘To the Jew First’

Many people know Hudson Taylor for the profound and lasting impact he had on the spread of the gospel in China. But not many know that on January 1st each year, Taylor wrote a check to a group dedicated to blessing the Jews of Europe.

On that check he always wrote four simple words: “…to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”(ROMANS 1:16)

Hudson Taylor understood that there is spiritual power in prioritizing what God says to put first. He believed what the apostle Paul had grasped thousands of years before: that the Word of God links the awakening of the Jews to the success in the church’s vision to spread the Good News of the Messiah to the whole world. 

Does Giving to Jewish Ministries take away from my Church? 

The simple answer is…no! Remember that whatever you give is a gift, and no one has a say on how and where you should give but you. If you would like to purpose in your heart to give towards outreaches among the Jewish people, no one should stop you.

However you allocate your giving or share offerings in addition to your regular church offering, the choice is entirely yours! 

Most of all, giving towards “To the Jew First” is an opportunity to bless the Jewish people and expand the gospel reach in Israel. The ministry and humanitarian efforts in Israel make a real impact because of the generosity of Christians all over the world! 

God’s Perfect Plan – From Israel to You: Free PDF Download

The Bible is full of God’s promises that can encourage our faith. Together, these promises make up one master plan of God.

You’re about to discover God’s perfect plan through the lens of 25+ references throughout Scripture.

Articles Related to Tithing

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

FIRM is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
tag icon-info envelope-o search map-marker money-heart globe contact-plane flag wallet star icon-directions controller-play calendar location world thumb-up comments verified language handshake-o congregations youth-young-adults social-justice worship-and-prayer outreach resources members-az israel-outline members biblical-soundness excellence-integrity financial-transparency leadership-accountability spirit-of-unity paint-brush-1 leader