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What Many Christians May Not Understand about Tithing

A Tithe is one-tenth of everything that a person gets. Tithe literally means tenth. This is given to the church for uses to aid God’s kingdom. However, this very fact causes considerable misunderstanding and confusion.

Does God need money, the most common form of a tithe? Of course not. He’s God and he can do anything He wants to do. He also owns everything. Many or most Christians have few problems with acknowledging that anything we receive as wages or any other money we are given ultimately came from God. But the money is for people, not God. That is the part where it aid’s God’s Kingdom.

Almost everything that is done by people requires money to do it. Even the ministry of Jesus cost money. It is even truer today. For example, our church has several outreach programs. We operate a food bank, clothing bank, soup kitchen, support about a dozen missionaries throughout the world, and operate a wood ministry, giving needed firewood to people who have no means to get any wood for heating. Many of the homes here are heated with wood.

On top of this, our church also helps people with immediate or emergency needs, that can range from gasoline for a vehicle, to power or water that are due to be turned off due to lack of funds to just about everything between. The labor is given freely by volunteers and that is extremely important. However, all of this requires money. All of the money that comes in through tithes and donations, goes right back out into the community.

This establishes the need for the money, but what about the tithe? This is the part that many people don’t understand. The tithe is supposed to be the very first 10% and it is set aside before anything else is done with the rest of the money or possessions. Incidentally, “holy” actually means “set aside.” The tithing has actually been the case since Cain and Abel. 

Genesis 4:2-5

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Why did God accept the offering of Abel but not that of Cain? This is subject to conjecture, but it is almost certain that Abel’s tithe, which was what it was, was the first fruits of the soil, while the offering of Cain was not the first of the firstborn of his flock. God must come first before anything else. If anything else comes before God, then he is no longer treated as the supreme ruler. 

Yet, this is actually how many Christians act. They will pay for this and that and if they still have the money left over, they will pay their tithe. When they do this, God is no longer first in their lives. It also becomes easy to say, “Well, I don’t have enough money this month, so I’ll just pay extra next month.” We’d have nothing if it wasn’t for God and if He can’t trust a person to return 10% of something as transitory as money, how can he trust the person with anything else? See, that is what this amounts to; it is a test. He doesn’t leave us out on a limb, either. Still, this is something that many Christians don’t understand and it is one reason they may struggle. Withholding a tithe amounts to stealing from God, that which is His.

This is a topic that needs more coverage and I plan to do so, but this should be enough to get Christians thinking about tithes and to begin to understand them.

  • Did you know that a tithe is supposed to be the FIRST 10% of anything you receive?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Do you regularly tithe?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Sometimes but not regularly
    • I don’t believe in tithing
    • I’m not Christian

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • That is exactly why churches are required to show what was taken in and what it was spent on. Anyone is free to look at the books at our church and they will know exactly how much our pastors are paid. People might be surprised at how little they make, considering the amount of work they do. If a person sat down and figured it out, they’d find that our senior pastor makes less than minimum wage.

      Yes, there are corrupt pastors and churches. Some of them have even gone to prison because of it. However, not all of them are that way. A pastor or anyone else who ‘skims the pot’, so to speak, is putting themselves before God. They are worldly and God deals with such people. Ultimately, they hurt the kingdom rather than helping it. There is nothing wrong with being suspicious. Ask to see the books if that makes you feel more comfortable with giving. Just be prepared to take quite some time to do it. The books at our church are tremendously detailed and every penny is accounted for. It takes a while to read through all of that information.

  1. I find it interesting that this very old idea has been revived in some quarters. This was practiced by pre-Reformation Catholics in Europe and was one reason why the Church became extremely wealthy, not to mention corrupt.

    I am not aware that this is official policy with any major Christian denomination, but it might be practised in some independent Evangelical churches.

    I have to assume that this is therefore more widespread in the United States, but I also wonder if there are places where it is misused to the extent that certain Church leaders are using the funds to feather their own nests rather than put the money to good use.

    • It is a practice that has never gone away, though a great number of people don’t understand it. It is also worldwide in scope. In fact, it is still practiced in Israel. It is widely practiced by the major evangelical churches, which are growing in number.

      You are also right, there are church leaders who misuse the funds. That has also been going on since Biblical times and there are bible scriptures that describe it. Of course, when it happens, it takes away from the Glory of God and those who do it will ultimately pay for the transgressions. Quite a few have already paid for it, even before the ultimate judgment.

      Unfortunately, the corruption of man is prevalent everywhere. In the case of our church here, the books are open to the public and a matter of public record. People can see exactly what was taken in and exactly where the money went. The open book policy is required, not only by law but also by the Assembly of God churches.

      • I do have problems with this idea, on two counts.

        One is that it must have the effect of dissuading people from joining churches who really cannot afford to give away 10% of their income. This will create the impression that churches are clubs for people with money.

        The other problem I have is that it takes away from the individual the choice of where to make their charitable donations. OK – there is nothing to stop someone making gifts outside the Church, but if what they can afford is limited to around 10% of their income, their choice of where to give has been taken from them.

        • I’m not a wealthy person and there are many in our church aren’t, either. What I make each month from social security doesn’t cover my bills. If I relied only on myself, I’d quickly go in the hole. I tithe $75 each month and since I’ve started doing it, we’ve never had an issue with paying our bills and usually end up with more at the end of each month than we did before we started tithing. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that we’ve been much better off when we started relying on God, rather than ourselves.

          Tithes also MUST be voluntary. Our church doesn’t require it and would be appalled at the idea of even suggesting that it be mandatory. Many people there are stuck on self-reliance and don’t tithe, they continually struggle to make ends meet. They make offerings. We do that, too, but the point is that not everyone in the church tithes. We started noticing a major change, personally, when we started tithing the first 10% but it definitely isn’t a requirement from the church.

          • That sounds fine to me, and I can see that there is nothing wrong with the concept as long as it is entirely voluntary and people who opt out are not thought to be less “worthy” than those who choose to tithe.

            Things were very different back in the Middle Ages, when tithes were compulsory – they paid the vicar’s wages – and so was Church attendance. The Church controlled the lives of the peasantry alongside the squirearchy.

        • Not only are tithes not required, only the bookkeeper knows who tithes and who doesn’t. The total amount brought in from tithes is public knowledge. Who donates or tithes what is not. Frankly, that is between the giver and God. That also helps prevent giving for the wrong reasons, such as for prideful reasons.

          In the middle ages, many atrocities were committed in the name of God that had absolutely nothing to do with God and which were very much against what is written in the bible.

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