Tithes and Offerings According To Scripture
It is a well-known fact that “Tithing” was instituted with the Torah (Old Testament) given through Mosheh. The same congregations and denominations that believe and teach that the Torah is “done away with”, somehow still enforce “tithing”. Even the ones who do not enforce Tithing, still stick to the belief that it is valid for today, unlike the other Old Testament instructions.
Tithing before the Torah of Mosheh
The Truth is that Tithing is mentioned before the instructions were given at Mt Sinai. Animal Sacrifices and Clean/Unclean Animal separation that were part of the Torah of Moshed are mentioned before the giving of the Torah, in the book of Genesis. Tithing was also done many years before Mosheh.
In Gen 14:20, it is mentioned that Abraham gave tithes of all he had to Melchizedek, the priest of YaHuWaH Almighty.
Gen 14:20 “And blessed be the Most High Ěl who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tenth of all.
In Gen 28:22, Jacob also makes a promise to YaHuWaH, to give a tenth of all that YaHuWaH gives him.
Gen 28:22 then this stone which I have set as a standing column shall be Elohim’s house, and of all that You give me, I shall certainly give a tenth to You.”
The Commandment of Tithing, through the Torah of Mosheh and the Tanakh
Before we get into the Torah regarding Tithing, it is necessary for all of us to understand a few fundamental aspects of the priestly system which tithing was part of:
- YaHuWaH instituted the Tribe of Levi to work in the Temple/Tabernacle that was instituted after Mosheh (Num 1:49-54, 3:6-10, 18:2-4)
- Aharon was also of the tribe of Levi (Num 26:59, Jos 21:10)
- YaHuWaH chose Aharon and his sons to be Priests in the Temple/Tabernacle forever (Exo 27:21, 28:1,41,43, 29:9, 40:13,15, 1Chr 23:13)
- All Levites were not Priests. Only the line of Aharon could be appointed as Priests (Num 16:8-11, 1Chr 6:48,49, 23:28, 2Chr 35:14, 2Chr 13:9,10). Even John the baptist descended from the lineage of Aharon, just as his father Zechariah (Luke 1:5 – compare the course of Abijah/Abia 1Chr 24:10,19)
- Everyone from the tribe of Levi, (other than Aharon and his descendants who were the priests) did all the other work in the Temple/Tabernacle (1Chr 23:27-32)
- The tribe of Levi did not have any inheritance in the Land (Num 18:23, Deut 10:8,9, 18:1,2, Jos 13:14,33)
- Levites were only given cities to live in (which they did not own), in each of the portions of land divided amongst the other tribes (Num 35:1-3 and 7-8)
There are 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures
Lev 27:30-33 is the first time the “Tithe” is specifically spoken of, by YaHuWaH Almighty. In this portion of Scripture, YaHuWaH mentions that the Tithe or Tenth of everything, whether seed, fruit, herd or flock, that the people “Yisra’El” procures from the Land, which YaHuWaH gives them, is owned by Him. YaHuWaH says that it is also Kadosh/Set-Apart to Him. But there is no further instruction regarding the Tithe mentioned in the Book of Leviticus. Accounting all of Scripture, we see that there was not 1, but 4 types of “Tithes” and specific instructions regarding these. Let us look at the 4 types of Tithes and try to clearly understand this Commandment regarding the Tithe.
“And all the tithe of the land – of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree – belongs to YaHuWaH. It is set-apart to YaHuWaH. If a man indeed redeems any of his tithes, he adds one-fifth to it. And the entire tithe of the herd and of the flock, all that passes under the rod, the tenth one is set-apart to YaHuWaH. He does not inquire whether it is good or spoilt, nor does he exchange it. And if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it is set-apart, it is not redeemed.”
1. The Levitical Tithe
The tithe which is commonly known by all is actually the Tithe which was separated for the Levites. This Tithe was to be brought by all of Yisra’El, and was to be given to the Levites. The Tithe which was brought was the inheritance set apart by YaHuWaH for the Levites (Num 18:21-24). All the tithes were given unto the Levites (Neh 12:44). It was the portion of the Levite (Neh 12:44) and was supposed to be divided amongst the Levites (Neh 13:10-13). YaHuWaH warns His people not to forsake the Levite (Deut 12:19). The Levites enjoyed the Tithes and whatever was left was stored in the treasury (2Chr 31:10). The fact that the Tithe went to the Levite, is even mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) (Heb 7:5)
2. The Tithe given to the Aharonic Priests
YaHuWaH commanded that the Levites who received the Tithe would be required to give a tenth of it to Sons of Aharon, who were the priests (Num 18:25-32). This was also known as the “Tithe of Tithes” (Neh 10:38) It was the payment that they and their families got for the service they did in the Tabernacle (Num 18:31). The Tithe of the Tithes, that the priests who were in the lineage of Aharon received, was the best part of the Tithe which was acquired by the Levites who served the Priests (Num 18:29,32)
3. Tithe given to the Poor
On top of the Tithe brought to the Levites, every third year was also called the “Year of Tithing” (Deut 26:12). Every third year there was a separate Tithe which was supposed to be brought and given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. It was basically given to the less fortunate, the poor and the people who could not fend for themselves (Deut 14:28,29). This Tithe is also mentioned by the Prophet Amos who talks to the idolatrous Yisraelites in a sarcastic manner (Amos 4:4)
4. The Tithe separated for YaHuWaH’s Appointed Times/Festivals/Feasts
YaHuWaH’s Appointed times which are commonly known as Feasts of YaHuWaH, which are mentioned in Leviticus 23, required everyone to come to Yerushalayim 3 times a year (Exo 23:14,15,17, Deut 16:16, 2Chr 8:13). YaHuWaH specifically commanded everyone to bring a Tithe, that they themselves would use to celebrate before YaHuWaH (Deut 14:22-27). YaHuWaH wanted this Tithe to be used for rejoicing before Him (Deut 12:6,7). This Tithe could only be used for the observance of the Feasts in Yerushalayim along with the Levite (Deut 12:17,18). It could not be used in any other place.
Tithes were supposed to be brought to Yerushalayim only
Just as no sacrifices or offerings could be made anywhere other than at the Temple/Tabernacle in Yerushalayim, Tithes were also supposed to be brought to the place that YaHuWaH chose to “place His Name” (Deut 12:5,6,11, 14:23). Yerushalayim is the only place that YaHuWaH placed His divine name Forever (1Kin 9:3, 11:36, 2Kin 21:4,7). It is called YaHuWaH’s Habitation (Isa 33:10, Ezr 7:15, 2Chr 29:6)
Is the Tithe valid for today?
The first thing to notice according to the 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures, is that the Tithes that could be valid for us are only the “Levitical Tithe”, “Poor Tithe” and “Feast Tithe”. The Priests Tithe was a Tithe made by the Levites and is excluded from us unless you are from the tribe of Levi. The “Levitical Tithe” was to be given to the Levites for their livelihood, as they did not have an inheritance. The “Poor Tithe” was to be brought to the Temple/Tabernacle in Yerushalayim and distributed amongst the poor. And the “Feast Tithe” was to be enjoyed by oneself at the Feasts/Appointed times when they came to the Temple/Tabernacle in Yerushalayim.
The problem today, with these 4 types of Tithes mentioned in the Scripture is, that the Temple built in Yerushalayim is not there anymore. In the same manner that no Sacrifices or offerings can and has not been made at the Temple since it’s destruction in 70AD, Tithing also cannot be done in any other place according to the Commandments of YaHuWaH. But according to all the Prophets and the Book of Revelations, The Yerushalayim Temple will be built again. On such a day, the Tithes according to the Scriptures would be valid again.
Mixing Tithes with Offerings
Most Christian circles have mixed up the Offering (known as the “freewill offering” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) with Tithing, saying Tithing is valid for today, while it is actually not. Even if Tithing was valid, Pastors, Ministers, and Leaders of congregations cannot receive the Tithe which YaHuWaH has separated for the Tribe of Levi. While offerings were collected and received to help the poor or the preaching of the Gospel, nowhere did Paul or any other Author receive or approve of taking Tithes.
In fact, Paul himself says that whoever that serves should receive an offering, (1Cor 9:9-14) but that he has never written or asked for anything in return for his service (1Cor 9:15). Receiving or giving an Offering, is not wrong or against YaHuWaH’s Word at all, as Paul is clearly proving through the use of the Old Testament Scriptures.
For it has been written in the Torah of Mosheh, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it about oxen Elohim is concerned? Or does He say it because of us all? For this was written because of us, that he who ploughs should plough in expectation and the thresher in expectation of sharing. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap material goods from you?
If others share authority over you, should not rather we? But we have not used this authority, but we put up with all, lest we hinder the Good News of Messiah. Do you not know that those serving the Set-apart Place eat from the Set-apart Place, and those attending at the altar have their share of the offerings of the altar? So also the Master instituted that those announcing the Good News should live from the Good News. But I have used none of these, nor have I written this that it should be done so to me. For it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting empty. 1Cor 9:9-15
Can anyone who serves YaHuWaH, request Tithes?
Some take the stance that whoever serves YaHuWaH should receive the Tithe making themselves equal to the Levites. But we see no such event taking place in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament). The Tithe was specifically separated for the Levite, the Poor and all who came for the feasts. Even though there were many synagogues in the time of Yahusha (Jesus’ true name) and even afterwards, as well as many congregations at houses throughout the 1st Century Assemblies, there is no indication that anyone accepted Tithes, other than the Levites who worked in the House of YaHuWaH in Yerushalayim.
One of the proof texts used by many to say YaHuWaH wants you to Tithe is Malachi 3:7-10. In this passage of Scripture Malachi prophesies to the Yisraelites saying they have robbed YaHuWaH by not giving the necessary Tithes and offerings. Verse 10 reads, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, and let there be food in My house. And please prove Me in this,” said YaHuWaH of hosts, “whether I do not open for you the windows of the heavens, and shall pour out for you boundless blessing!”
As a piece of Scripture that is connected to a promise, we must first of all, ask a few important questions regarding this verse:
1) What is the Storehouse?
2) Why does YaHuWaH want food in His House?
3) What is YaHuWaH referring to as My House?
The Storehouse mentioned in this verse is the treasury of the Temple (Neh 10:38, 12:44). YaHuWaH does not require food to eat, but the reason He mentions food in His house is that the Levites who serve would be given all of this (as per His Commandment) so that they can keep on serving at the Temple without hindrance. And the place YaHuWaH mentions as “My House” is the Temple which was built for Him in Yerushalayim. This verse, read in context cannot mean that YaHuWaH is ordering believers today, to give Tithes to their Church Leaders.
Giving to the Widow, the Fatherless and the Stranger
Out of the Tithes mentioned in the Scriptures, the only clear category of people who could receive it today would be the poor. Throughout the Scriptures right up to the writings of the Talmidim (Apostles), the people who cannot fend for themselves have been asked to be taken care of (Deut 24:19-21, Psa 146:9, Jer 7:6,7, Zec 7:10, Mal 3:5, James 1:27). Using the portion that is separated for YaHuWaH to help the poor and helpless could be the closest we could get to a Biblical Tithe, in this day and age. It is not only acceptable but is also an act that is surely noticed by YaHuWaH and approved throughout the Scriptures (Acts 10:4, Mat 6:4, Luk 12:33, Acts 9:36, 24:17)
It is clear that no one can point to Scripture to prove that they should rightly receive a Tithe from anyone, as the 4 types of Tithes mentioned in Scripture were given to the Levites, Priests, Poor and whoever came to celebrate the feasts of YaHuWaH. Leaders, Pastors, and Ministers have no authority to request or insinuate that the Tithe must be given to them and the institution that they are part of when there is a clear set of rules made by YaHuWaH regarding this ordinance.
If someone does want to give a Tenth of what they earn to a Minister or a leader, it would be considered an “Offering”, which is not the same as the Tithe mentioned in the Scriptures. This does not mean that we should not and cannot separate or give a Tenth of our earnings to the Poor or the people who serve YaHuWaH Almighty. It is important though to make these decisions with discernment and help the people who are in need, the most. The portion we give, whether big or small, whether it is one-tenth or not, should be done with Love and obedience to YaHuWaH, so that it brings praise to Him and Him alone.