In the Christian and Jewish traditions, a tithe is a sum of money, usually 10% of a person's income, that is given to the church.
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 (as opposed to being designated for a specific purpose such as missions). 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 would represent 10% of the person's income) are generally considered "offerings" as opposed to tithes.
The Treatise of the Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (the largest of the Free Will Baptist denominations) states that the Old and New Testaments teach that the tithe is the standard of giving for Christians. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the Baptist groups, does not specifically mention the tithe in its Baptist Faith and Message, but it has been historically and is commonly taught and practiced within its congregations.
Arguments For and Against
- The tithe predates the Mosaic law: Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, and when Jacob vowed a tithe of all he possessed. (Some groups argue that Abel's giving of the firstfruits of his flock -- as opposed to Cain's giving "of his produce" -- is another example of the tithe.)
- Though the tithe is mandated in the Old Testament (Leviticus 27:30–33) as applicable to Jews, it was praised by Jesus (Matthew 23:23) and not eliminated by Him.
- Malachi 3 (specifically verse 10) warns believers about "robbing God" by not tithing and giving.
- Abraham's tithe was a one-time event (not a pattern of regular tithing), and we have no record of whether or not Jacob ever fulfilled his vow. Also other groups argue that Abel's giving does not represent a tithe as nothing is mentioned of how much of his flock the firstfruits constituted.
- 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.
- ↑ The Hebrew word for tithe is tenth.
- ↑ A Treatise of the Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc., Part II, Chapter XVI.