About Tithing

Thought i’d directly copy and paste this excerpt from First Fruits of Zion’s weekly email.

Parashat Hashavuah

Re’ehראה :”Behold”
Torah : Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Haftarah : Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Gospels : Acts 8, 9


Adapted from Torah Club Volume One
Unrolling the Scroll

Thought for the Week

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says [in Deuteronomy 25:4], “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and [Yeshua says in Matthew 10:10,] “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)


You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. (Deuteronomy 14:22)

Tithe is an English word that means “tenth.” Most Christians have heard of tithing. Many churches rely on the regular and faithful tithing of their congregants. The idea is that a person is duty-bound to give a tenth of his income to the LORD by donating it to his local church or congregation. This concept is loosely derived from the Torah.

The practice of giving a tenth of one’s income to the gods was widespread in the ancient Near East. Prior to the giving the Torah, both Abraham and Jacob tithed. The commandment to give a tithe, however, refers specifically to agriculture in the land of Israel during the days of the Temple. The Torah commanded farmers to give ten percent of the produce of their fields, vineyards, orchards, flocks and cattle to the Levites. The Levites in turn gave ten percent of that to the priesthood. The tithe was the primary mechanism by which the Levitical, priestly system was sustained.

Donating ten percent of one’s income does not sound too formidable, but the Israelite farmers were to set aside an additional tithe as well. This means that the total biblical “tithe” was closer to twenty percent. The additional ten percent was not given to the Levites, though. The Bible says that the Israelite farmers were to spend this second tithe on themselves in Jerusalem during the festivals. They were also to share with the poor. It is this second tithe which is under discussion in Deuteronomy 14:

You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock. …You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you. (Deuteronomy 14:23-27)

Churches sometimes misappropriate the commandment of the tithe by suggesting to their congregants that the Bible requires them to give ten percent of their income to the church. The Bible’s commandments about tithing do not apply to churches or people outside the land of Israel. They applied only to farmers in the land of Israel during the days of the Temple. Nevertheless, the principle of giving ten percent is an important baseline for charitable giving. Although they did not levy a tithe, the early believers outside the land of Israel contributed a portion of their possessions and income to the poor as well as to the teachers and prophets in their communities.1 Yeshua taught us to support ministers of the Word.2 Paul taught that elders who teach the Word should be paid for their efforts.3

Because there is no real tithe today, it is customary in Judaism to give ten percent of one’s income to the poor or to invest it in the education of Torah scholars or other charitable causes. Additional charitable giving and support of the community and synagogue are encouraged over and above that ten percent baseline.

Should believers today tithe? Yes. They are not obligated to do so, yet it is good to tithe one’s income for the work of the LORD. The tithe should be donated to one’s local congregation, to the poor and/or to ministries serving the kingdom. Some might even want to consider setting aside a portion of an additional tithe to spend during the festivals.


1. Didache 13.
2. Matthew 10:10.
3. 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

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