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What Does the Bible Say About Tithing?

Evan Lange

Evan Lange

March 6, 2024

Tithing can be difficult to talk about, but knowing what the Bible says about tithing is a critical element of biblical generosity. Tithing has often been mischaracterized. Should modern Christians be giving 10%? Evan Lange discusses where that familiar number came from, where we can find tithing discussed in the Bible, and what expectation there is for tithing in today’s world.

Biblical Definition of Tithing

There are only two types of monetary giving found in the Bible: required giving (giving to people) and freewill giving (giving to God). Both are found throughout the Bible – both Old Testament and New Testament.

The definition of tithing literally is one-tenth. The argument has been that the Israelites were required to give 10% under the law of Moses, therefore contemporary Christians are also required to give 10%. However, this is bad theology and logic. Most of the misunderstanding comes from a faulty view of the Old Testament.

Let’s clear up the misunderstanding of tithing in the Bible by looking at verses about tithing, required giving, and freewill giving in four contexts: 1) before the Law of Moses; 2) after the Law is given; 3) what Jesus says about giving; and 4) what we are called to do now.

Tithing in the Bible

1. Pre-Mosaic Law

  • Freewill giving to God:
    • Genesis 4:3-7 – Cain and Abel bring an offering to the Lord (voluntary, not commanded by God).
    • Genesis 8:20 – Noah makes a burnt offering to God (voluntary, not a tenth or tithe).
    • Abram:
      • Genesis 12:7 – builds an altar and makes an offering (voluntary).
      • Genesis 13:18 – builds an altar and makes an offering (voluntary).
  • The first mention of the tithe – or tenth – in the Bible:
    • Genesis 14:20 – Abram tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (voluntary). Abram was blessed and gave thanks to God. This is the only time Abram gives a tithe.
  • The second mention of a tithe in the Bible:
    • Genesis 28:20-22 – Jacob vows to tithe to God (given voluntarily, not set out as a model for giving).
  • The first instance of required giving – to the government:
    • Genesis 41:34 and 47:24 – Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream regarding the upcoming famine and creates a tax to support the nation of Egypt and Israelites – 1/5 (20%).

2. Mosaic Law

  • Required giving: Three separate tithes totaling at least 23.33% – to support the government, an institution of God.
    • Leviticus 27:30-34 – the Lord’s tithe or Levite’s tithe.
      • Israel was a theocracy, and the government was ruled by God and His appointed leaders (the Levites).
      • Malachi 3:8 – to avoid the tithe robs God.
    • Deuteronomy 12:1-28 and 14 – the festival tithe.
      • Every person contributes to national feasts that help unite the nation of Israel.
    • Deuteronomy 14:28 – the welfare/poor tithe.
      • Every three years, an additional tithe is collected to help meet the needs of destitute (around 3.3% annually).
  • Freewill Giving: Voluntary, proportionate, offering to the Lord.
    • Numbers 18:12 – Giving the first fruits, the best and first of the crops, to God.
    • Exodus 25:2; 35:27-29 – Moses builds the tabernacle and collects a freewill offering
      • Exodus 36: 3-6 – The Israelites end up giving too much, and Moses must restrain them from giving more.
    • Deuteronomy 16:10, 16 – Feast of Weeks, a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord has given each person. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord.
    • 1 Chronicles 29:9-10 – David and the leaders of Israel give precious items to help build the temple.

In summary, tithes under the Mosaic law were TAXATION to fund the theocratic government of Israel. But the Israelites also gave freely and voluntarily to God.

What can contemporary Christians learn from these verses? Pay your taxes and give to God whatever your heart tells you to give.

3. What Jesus Says about Taxes, Tithing and Giving

  • Jesus paid taxes!
    • Matthew 17:24-27 – Jesus pays the Temple Tax.
    • Matthew 22:15-22 – Jesus instructs the Pharisees to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to give toe God what is God’s.
  • Jesus and the tithe:
    • Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42 – Jesus chides the Pharisees for tithing from their resources yet ignoring “the more important matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”
  • Jesus is not criticizing the Pharisees for tithing, but for missing what’s most important.
    • Luke 18:9-14 – Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee who boasts about tithing and fasting. To exalt yourself for following the Law will not please God.
  • Jesus and Freewill Giving:
    • Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus gives half of his goods to the poor after being transformed by Jesus.
    • Luke 8:3 – Mary, Joanna, and Susanna provided for Jesus’ ministry.
    • Matthew 6:1-4 – Jesus instructs His followers to give freely and compassionately to the poor without boasting.
    • Luke 10:33-35 – Jesus tells a story of the good Samaritan who gives compassionately to a stranger.
    • Luke 6:38 – Jesus explains that giving increases the giver’s blessings.
    • John 3:16 – God gave to us. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

4. What do we do now?

  •  Required Giving – Pay your taxes to the government.
    • Romans 13:6-7 – Pay your taxes. The government is God’s minister.
    • 1 Peter 2:13-17 – Submit yourselves to the government.
  • Freewill Giving to God – Generosity is an overflow of love.
    • 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 – Paul praises the Macedonian churches (in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) as models of Christian giving: Entirely on their own, they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
    • The early church in Acts is never told to tithe. But there is a lot of giving.
      • Acts 2:45 – Christians sell possessions and goods for the ministry of the church.
      • Acts 4:34-37 – Christians sell land and houses and lay proceeds at the apostles’ feet.
      • Acts 20:35 – Paul recounts Jesus’s own words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”


Why should we give? 2 Corinthians 8:9 explains: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Our generosity serves to bless others and glorify God.


John Piper –

John Piper –

John MacArthur –

Compass Ministries – 2,350 verses on money and possessions –


Originally Published on September 15, 2022.

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About Evan Lange

Evan Lange

Serving as President of the Midwest Region for The Signatry, Evan works with advisors, attorneys, and business owners to minimize taxes and maximize charitable giving.

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