Tithe

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In the Christian and Jewish traditions, a tithe is a sum of money, usually 10% of a person's income,[1] that is given to the church.

The tithe is mandated in the Old Testament (Leviticus 27:30–33) as applicable to Jews, and praised by Jesus (Matthew 23:23). However, the practice was referenced twice prior to the Mosaic Law being given: when Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, and when Jacob vowed a tithe of all he possessed. Malachi 3:10 is another verse commonly used to teach the requirement (along with, in some circles, the verses prior about "robbing God").

Tithing is generally preached within most Evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal/charismatic churches, though for different reasons (Prosperity Gospel churches will teach it as a means of earning God's favor, and thus more material blessings to the giver, while most churches teach it as demonstrating obedience to God and thankfulness for His blessings). It is also commonly emphasized greatly within megachurches (to the extent that church employees, in some cases, have it automatically deducted from their paychecks as a condition of employment).

Tithing is generally taught that it is to be a minimum amount to be given, and that it should be given to the local church of which the person is a member (as opposed to a para-church organization) for the general use of the church leadership. Donations above that amount for general purposes, donations for specific purposes (such as mission work or a capital campaign), and/or donations by non-members (even if the amount is 10% of income) are considered "offerings".

However, there are churches which do not believe that it applies to Christians today. Arguments against include:

  • the actions of Abraham and Jacob prior to Mosaic Law were one-time events, not a pattern of regular giving.
  • the verses in Malachi are directed to Jewish leaders, not to the people as a whole, indicating that the leaders were the ones "robbing God"
  • Acts 15, where after disagreements as to what extent (if any) newly converted Gentiles were to keep Mosaic Law, it was decided that only four specific requirements needed to be kept (v. 29; the tithe not being among them).
  • I Corinthians 16:2 does not mention the tithe, though written by a Jew (the Apostle Paul) to Gentiles who would not know Mosaic Law; if the tithe were to be maintained he would have specifically pointed that out to people not having prior knowledge.

References

  1. The Hebrew word for tithe is tenth.

Further reading