“Tithe” means a tenth or 10 percent. The Old Testament law required that a tenth of all produce, flocks, and cattle be given to support the Levites (the priestly class in ancient Israel). In turn, the Levites were to give a tenth of that for support of the high priest (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-28).
An additional tithe, collected every three years, was to be used to meet the needs of the Levites, foreigners, orphans and widows. (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). Additional tithes were taken for festival purposes.
In addition, everyone was to be generous with those in need:
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. (NIV, Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
The New Testament does not give any specific rules about tithing, and most aspects of the Old Testament Law do not apply to Christians. (See What Does the Bible Say About the Old Testament Law?)
However, Jesus made it clear that we are obligated to be generous to those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV, Matthew 5:42)
Giving is to be done cheerfully, rather than as an obligation (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and not for the purpose of public recognition (Matthew 6:1-4). The amount to give is not necessarily ten percent (Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22, 21:1-4, Hebrews 13:16, 1 John 3:17). Generous giving is an acknowledgment that everything we have is a gift from God, and is to be used in His service (Luke 12:33, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 1:17, 1:27, 1 Peter 4:10).
Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, Christians are urged to share generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to them:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. ( NIV, Romans 12:6-8)
There is nothing in the Bible saying we should give a certain amount or a certain percentage to a church.
The tithing rules in the Bible were based specifically on the religious and social system of ancient Israel and on an agricultural economy. Modern day questions about what percentage we should give and whether it should be computed on gross income, net income or wealth are not answered in the Bible. Nor does the Bible tell us how much of our giving should go to a church and how much to help the needy. In today’s world, we must pray and listen to our consciences and consider the needs of ourselves and our families (1 Timothy 5:8) when deciding how much to give and to which organizations or individuals. No one should feel pressured to give a certain amount of money to a church or other ministry.
Also, there is no requirement in the Bible to give “seed money” to a church, preacher or ministry, and no promise that any blessings of any kind will come as a result.
Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. In some churches giving is over-emphasized. At the same time, many Christians refuse to submit to the biblical exhortations about making offerings to the Lord. Tithing/giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case in the church today.
Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the Law in which the Israelites were to give 10 percent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 27:30;Numbers 18:26;Deuteronomy 14:24;2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes—one for the Levites, one for the use of the temple and the feasts, and one for the poor of the land—which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.
The New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says gifts should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some in the Christian church have taken the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving.
The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the church. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).