Tithing in the Bible: It Is Holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30-33)

Corey —  November 18, 2009

       We’ve looked at Abram’s example and Jacob’s example of tithing, which are the only two instances we have in the Bible of tithing before the Mosaic Law. Now we’re going to start looking at tithing as it is defined and laid out in the Law. I’m looking at the verses on tithing as they appear in the Bible, so today we’re going to look at Leviticus 27:30-33:

       30 “‘All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh’s. It is holy to Yahweh. 31 If a man redeems anything of his tithe, he shall add a fifth part to it. 32 All the tithe of the herds or the flocks, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to Yahweh. 33 He shall not search whether it is good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he changes it at all, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy. It shall not be redeemed.’”

Leviticus 27:30-33 (WEB)

It Is Holy to Yahweh (the Lord)

       Many people look at these verses and determine that since the tithe is “holy to the Lord” we are required to pay it. However, if we’re going to use that as the standard for determining which Old Testament laws we should keep, we don’t want to leave anything out. Here are just a few other things we should be doing if we’re required to do anything that is “holy to the Lord” in the Old Testament:

  • Make our grain and sin offerings (Leviticus 2:1-3 and Leviticus 6:25-29)

  • Make our trespass offerings (Leviticus 7:1-6)

  • Keep and do all the other things God commanded that were holy, including the feasts, holy days, the sanctuary (as it was described in the Old Testament), a crown for the high priest, the clothes for the priests (linen garments), and the fruit a tree produces in its fourth year (Leviticus 23:1-44, Leviticus 8:9, Leviticus 16:4, and Leviticus 19:24)

  • Keep all the statutes in the Law so we can be holy to the Lord (Leviticus 20:7-8)
  •        There are many other things besides the tithe that were considered holy to the Lord in the Old Testament. If we’re going to say that we must keep the tithe because “it is holy to the Lord”, then we must also keep all the other things that are “holy to the Lord”. That phrase is common throughout the Law and was used to signify the importance that the Israelites should keep the Law that they were under. Unless Christians are going to begin keeping all of the Law, we cannot pick and choose certain aspects to enforce based simply on the phrase “it is holy to the Lord”.

    The Tithe of the Land, Herds, or Flocks

           Only food items are discussed in this passage as being part of the tithe. In fact, as we continue to examine the tithe in the Bible, we’ll see that money and income are never mentioned as items to be tithed. Only crops from the land and animals from herds were used in any of the tithes. This means if you weren’t a farmer, shepherd, or otherwise didn’t grow crops or raise animals then you didn’t pay any kind of tithe as described in the Old Testament. (There are other offerings you would have had to pay, but if you were poor there were provisions for paying a smaller amount.)

    Not the Best Tenth

           Another aspect of this passage that is missed by those who teach that Christians should tithe is the fact that the tithe was not the best tenth. Those who teaching tithing say the tithe should be the first and best 10% of all our increase (not just the crops and animals). But in this passage on tithing we see the exact opposite.

           First, there is no mention of the quality or order in which the crops should be tithed. It’s simply stated as the tithe of the land.

           Second, in the section on herds and flocks, the animal that must be tithed is the tenth one to pass under the rod (shepherd’s staff) – not the first. If an Israelite only had nine animals in his flock, then he did not tithe any of them according to the Law.

           Finally, those who had more than ten animals were forbidden from picking which one should be tithed. It had to be the tenth one to pass under the rod. He couldn’t change it regardless of whether it was bad or good. This means he couldn’t even choose to give God the best as the tenth animal – God told the Israelites that it must be the tenth animal no matter what.

           Only the Levites were commanded to give the best tenth when they gave the priests the tithe of the tithes. The Levites received the tithes from the people of Israel, and in turn they were to give the best tenth of those tithes to the priests who served at the temple. We’ll look at that in the next part of this series, but that’s the only time anyone in Israel was commanded to give the best tenth and it only applied to the Levites.

    Get Free Updates!

           We’re already beginning to see that the tithe as it is taught to Christians today is not even based on the Bible’s definition of the tithe. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in learning more about what God’s Word says about tithing. If you want to know what the giving requirements are for Christians, I recommend you check out my posts on New Covenant giving principles.

           As always, please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts about this article.



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

7 responses to Tithing in the Bible: It Is Holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30-33)

  1. Very good points. I go to a church that preaches tithing all the time and how important it is, and how it should be your first fruits and very best. I know that we are not under the law, but under grace. I also know that God looks at the heart of the giver, not the gift. The God I know will not throw my gift back at me, if what I gave him, I gave wishing, I could give more. I love my church because they are very charismatic and are always reaching out to the lost for salvation, but I wonder? Is it to save the lost or to gain new members and increase tithes to build a mega-church? I will let God be the judge of that. I am not judging, but I know in my heart they are wrong on this. I am not talking bad about them at all. I am simply stating a fact. There is a difference! I am torn because I love all my brothers and sisters in Christ and even my pastor, but I don’t want to cause any division. What should I do?

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Raymond.

    We should never fear confronting error with truth – especially when the error comes from leaders. We must be careful that we are not in error ourselves, but in this case the Bible is clear about the truth. It is man who has made a doctrine out of tithing and some even go so far as to condemn people to being cursed or losing their salvation if they don’t follow the tithing rules. There’s no way to reconcile this with the Gospel.

    As to what you should do, the best advice I can give is to pray. If tithing is the only matter on which you don’t agree with your local church, then it may not be worth arguing about or leaving. However, I don’t know your situation well enough to speak to exactly what you should do, and God could very well have a plan for you in discussing this issues with others at your church. Because it can be very divisive (like so many other issues), I can only encourage you to pray and seek God’s guidance in this before moving forward. Blessings to you, and I am always happy to talk with you if you’d like.

  3. Great points! I read your article on Numbers 18:20-32 as well and plan to read on in this series of posts. I have a question for you about “first and best”. I agree that this passage does not “require” (under the law) first and best. What are your thoughts on what Solomon says in Proverbs 3:9-10 in relation to generosity towards God and/or the “practice” behind what we call tithing?

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bill.

    As far as Proverbs 3:9-10 goes, the principle of honoring God with your wealth would certainly still apply. But I’m certain that by firstfruits Solomon meant the firstfruits as required under the Law. The problem I’m pointing out in this article is not that we shouldn’t give our best to God or that He shouldn’t be primary. I’m just pointing out that those who teach that the tithe is/was the best and first are twisting Scripture to make it fit their own ideas/motives.

    The fact that the Law of Moses does not apply to us does not change the fact that God should be primary in all aspects of our lives. But the New Covenant is not about following a list of rules. Rather, it’s about pursuing God’s heart and having His love live in and through you.

  5. “…it’s about pursuing God’s heart and having His love live in and through you.” – Well put. So many times people are all about external ritheousness (rules and religion) while forgetting that in Matthew 5:20 Jesus express disapproval of spiritual activity when it isn’t produced by an internal relationship with God. It all boils down to relationship. Thanks again.

  6. Very good points!Tithes has become the major teaching in the church, and all we hear is that when you want to be blessed from God pay your tithes (10%) of every income you get.Paul, there was a day my brother in Christ received a phone call from his pastor about his tithes and his wife own.Pastor was asking him that he did not see his tithes and wife’s tithes for that month.Is this really in the Bible or is there where God said servant should find out who paid tithes or not?

  7. Hi, Glory. There is a sense in which a pastor should counsel the people in the church when they are erring. But as you can tell from what I’ve written about tithing, I don’t think tithing is one of those areas. I think a pastor could encourage and challenge people to give generously, but that doesn’t mean 10% from everyone. For some people generous is more than 10%, and for others it is less than 10%.

    If a pastor is calling people up because he sees they’re not paying their “tithes” to the church, I would be carefully examining what else is happening at the church to determine if it is a healthy church to be in.