Tithing in the Bible: Eating Your Tithe (Deuteronomy 12, 14, and 26)

Corey —  November 25, 2009 — 20 Comments

       When we looked at Numbers 18, we found that the tithe only consisted of agricultural products (crops grown and animals raised) and was not based on an Israelite’s income (in money). We also found that only a tithe of the tithes went to the priests, while the remaining nine-tenths of the tithe belonged to the Levites. Today, we’re going to look at three places in Deuteronomy where the tithe is discussed in more detail, and we’ll find some more surprising things that aren’t taught by tithing advocates.

       These passages are also sometimes used to determine that there may have been one or two tithes in addition to the tithe that supported the Levites and the priests. However, I’m personally not sure it’s clear exactly how many tithes the Israelites paid and it doesn’t really matter. These passages contain enough clear teaching to refute anyone who would try to teach that Christians should be tithing 10% of their gross income to their church.

Statutes & Ordinances

       Tithing is mentioned three times in Deuteronomy 12, but first we’re going to look at how this chapter begins. It starts out by making it clear that the things which follow are for Israel and apply in the land of Israel.

       These are the statutes and the ordinances which you shall observe to do in the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth.

Deuteronomy 12:1 (WEB)



       Moses is about to explain the statutes and ordinances that God has given him to set before the Israelites. Many of these statutes and ordinances include things that Christians do not even consider maintaining today, such as the dietary laws. But some believe that the tithe is somehow different and stands apart from all the other statutes and ordinances contained in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Law. However, Moses makes no distinction between the statutes on tithing and those concerning anything else. They were all statutes and ordinances that God commanded the Israelites to follow.

       We cannot choose to enforce one of these laws and neglect all the others. But how many tithing advocates have you heard teach that Christians are required to keep all the Laws of Moses? Even the Jewish Christians did not impose such requirements on the Gentile Christians (in Acts).

Eating the Tithe

       Later in Deuteronomy 12, we see that Moses instructs the Israelites to eat their tithes in the place God chooses.

       5 But to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even to his habitation you shall seek, and there you shall come; 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock: 7 and there you shall eat before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 (WEB)



       This is then followed by a passage explaining that the tithes and offerings were to be taken to the place God chooses after the Israelites pass over the Jordon. This passage also repeats the command about rejoicing before the Lord after bringing the tithes.

       10 But when you go over the Jordan, and dwell in the land which Yahweh your God causes you to inherit, and he gives you rest from all your enemies around you, so that you dwell in safety; 11 then it shall happen that to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow to Yahweh. 12 You shall rejoice before Yahweh your God, you, and your sons, and your daughters, and your male servants, and your female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you.

Deuteronomy 12:10-12 (WEB)



       And later on we see yet another passage that discusses eating the tithe before the Lord in the place He chooses. Additionally, the following passage indicates that all the Israelites ate of the tithe along with the Levites.

       17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or of your new wine, or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, nor the wave offering of your hand; 18 but you shall eat them before Yahweh your God in the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your male servant, and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates: and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God in all that you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 12:17-18 (WEB)



       Then in chapter 14 we see the command to tithe repeated once again and with it the command to eat the tithe before the Lord.

       22 You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which comes forth from the field year by year. 23 You shall eat before Yahweh your God, in the place which he shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, the tithe of your grain, of your new wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock; that you may learn to fear Yahweh your God always.

       24 If the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which Yahweh your God shall choose, to set his name there, when Yahweh your God shall bless you; 25 then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose: 26 and you shall bestow the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (WEB)



       Verses 24 through 26 talk about selling the tithe and converting it to money if it’s too much to carry to the place God has chosen. But once the Israelites arrived at the place God had chosen, they were to use the money they got from selling their tithe to buy food and drink to eat before the Lord and celebrate. Clearly, money was used during this time, but it was never considered to be part of the the tithe. The Israelites never paid a tithe on their money or income – they tithed on the increase they had in their crops, herds, and flocks.

       Now don’t you find these passages quite strange when compared with the modern teaching of tithing? Tithing advocates often condemn those who do not pay a full 10% to their church – but God commanded the Israelites to eat their tithes in His presence. Tithing is taught as 10% of your gross (or sometimes net) income – but God commanded the Israelites to only tithe the increase of their fields (crops) and animals (herds or flocks). Israelites who did not farm or raise animals would have never paid the tithe as it is described in the Law of Moses.

The Levites, the Strangers, the Orphans, and the Widows

       Finally, we’re going to look at two places where the tithe seems to have been used to specifically care for the poor. Some take this to mean that the normal tithe was kept in each Israelite city every third year to help care for the poor, while others believe this was a separate tithe (a full 10%) that was only paid every third year for the same purpose. Either way, it doesn’t matter for our purposes. The point here is that at least every third year the tithe (as described in the Bible) went specifically to the poor and needy.

       27 The Levite who is within your gates, you shall not forsake him; for he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 28 At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates: 29 and the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the foreigner living among you, and the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Deuteronomy 14:27-29 (WEB)



       We also see this mentioned in chapter 26:

       When you have made an end of tithing all the tithe of your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the foreigner, to the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your gates, and be filled.

Deuteronomy 26:12 (WEB)



       The point I’m raising here is not whether there was an additional tithe (or even two additional tithes, some think the tithe I was talking about before was the “festival tithe”). The point is that the tithe went to care for the poor and needy in the communities of the Israelites. This included the Levites (most of whom merely served to care for the Tent of Meeting or the Temple and were not priests), the strangers, the orphans, and the widows. If this was an important part of God’s command to the Israelites concerning the tithe, why is it not repeated when Christians are taught that they should be tithing?

       The idea that those who gave the tithe were to eat it and the idea that the tithe didn’t just go to support the priests, Levites, and the Temple (the church?) are inconsistent with modern teaching that supports tithing as a requirement for Christians. But clearly the Scriptures teach these ideas in regard to the tithe.

Keep Learning!

       We still have several more verses about tithing to cover before we’ll have fully examined tithing in the Bible. If you want to keep learning what the Bible has to say about tithing, make sure you sign up to get free updates to Provident Planning.

       Also, I want to take this chance to say that just because Christians aren’t under the Mosaic Law of tithing does not mean that we should not give. There are clear New Testament passages which indicate the kind of giving Christians should be doing and the fact that we should support those who labor in preaching and teaching the Word. But these New Covenant giving principles supersede the Old Testament tithe. Therefore, those New Covenant giving principles should be taught and the tithe should not be taught as a requirement for Christians.

       As always, please share your thoughts and comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Corey

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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.

20 responses to Tithing in the Bible: Eating Your Tithe (Deuteronomy 12, 14, and 26)

  1. We choose to tithe 10% of our pre tax income (but not the value of our work provided health plan or the contributions of our retirement investments.) We do not tithe our tax refund, we do tithe any distributions from our accounts.

    I do agree that tithing is a part of the Mosaic or lower, Law. I believe the higher law would be to give all (not just 10%) to the poor, not to give even less than 10%.

    Oh, and once a month, when healthy (i.e., not pregnant or nursing or otherwise sick) we don’t eat for 24hrs, two meals, and that money also gets donated to the poor.

  2. Denise, thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

    It’s great if people choose to give 10%. My concern is with those who teach that all Christians must tithe (as a minimum) or they’ll be cursed or won’t receive salvation or what have you. I also want us to see that the tithe in the Old Testament was not an example of a maximum either. Jesus clearly calls us to give whatever we can to anyone in need.

    It would be a shame if Christians just use 10% as a check box – do it and you’re done. I believe God calls us to seek His will in giving as in all things, and His will for any one of us may require giving more than just 10% (or less depending on our circumstances and His will).

    I like your idea about fasting and giving that money to the poor. It’s a great time to pray and focus on God and all that He’s blessed us with. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. I am doing alot of research on the tithe. I look at the heart of the tithe and apply it in that way. I do give 10% but in the order of the heart of the application… to the fatherless, widow, foreigner or (poor) and the Levite (modern day priest of church or minister of the Gospel and it is for us as well. Not all of my tithe goes to church but it is distributed accordingly. i dont want to make up my own rules but follow God’s because His law is perfect. and He established them to last forever.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Eddie! I’m glad to hear you’re doing your own research on the tithe. It’s important for all of us to examine what we are taught by other Christians to make sure it is in congruence with the Scriptures. I pray God blesses your study and provides you with wisdom and knowledge.

  5. I love my Pastor and believe he preaches the word. I think it is ok to tithe to GOD in church. But, I have been questioning why we have to pick and choose the tithes that seem to help the church. Why have I not heard preachers preach on the tithes in Duet? They always preach on the Malachi tithe and always show us how the tithe Abraham gave was to the Priest. This thought came to me, if Melkezedec (the priest that Abaraham tithed to) was like JESUS: how do we know what Melkezedec did with that money? For the most part JESUS helped the poor, he loved the church, but the poor people were very high priority. How do we know that Melkezedec or JESUS did not turn and help the poor with that tithe? I just want to here 1 tithing sermon with all the tithes talked about, not just the ones that benefit the church. Every time I ask a Pastor about this, they ignore me or give me a fluffy answer, I want the whole truth.

  6. Barry, thanks so much for commenting! This is exactly why I spent so much time studying tithing in the Bible. Too many preachers and teachers have taken just a couple excerpts from Scripture and used tithing to motivate people to give. The neglect a true study of what tithing was in the Bible. The tithes in Deuteronomy are a clear example of this because hardly anyone talks about them.

    Like I’ve said before, the New Testament has a much higher standard for giving than the Old. And our motivation to give is much better. We give out of response to God’s love and the gift of His Son. We don’t need a law to tell us we should give or how much. Jesus made it clear that we should be extremely generous.

    If you’d like to hear a sermon about tithing that discusses all the tithes, I recommend Bill Mounce’s sermon on tithing.

  7. I was really enlightened by the information that you gave on the tithes as explained in Deuteronomy. I have been a Christian for over 40 years and have never in my life heard about the tithe talked about in this way it eally opened my eyes. In my church as a child and all churches that I have attended and in my present church I have always wondered why the poor are turned away by the church. I have always thought that the poor should be give some help. I was a victim of Hurricane Katrina and when I went to th different churches in Georgia none of them would help me. I received some help from a small gov program that helped me pay my utility bill because we were all relocated to other states. According to what you say, the church should give out of the tithes they receive to the poor, widows, strangers and orphans. This idea has always been in my spirit. I have asked why and they say people come here and lie or they will keep coming back to exploit the church funds.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Lorain. I’m sorry to hear you were turned away from the church when you were in need. As you’ve pointed out, this should not be the case. While some discernment and accountability is definitely needed, that doesn’t mean we should make excuses as to why the church can’t help. Most of the time, we’re just too lazy to put in the work required to truly help others. It’s not easy to actually take up the cross and live out the teaching of Jesus – and too many of us want it to be easy.

  9. Austin Adjarho May 6, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    A friend of my, speak on this tithing issue, so good to be reading it again from you, the church needs transformation for the GOSPEL, I believe in The full GOSPEL GRACE, we need to preach this all the time, do you know that some christians do not know that such scripture in the bible.. brother am really bless. I will like you join our group on facebook, ia call TGP (The Grace Project). I will like to exchange maills with you in the future..

  10. Thanks for your comment, Austin. Understanding God’s Grace is key in studying tithing in the Bible. I hope these articles will help show people the inconsistencies in modern teaching on tithing. If you’d like to get in touch with me directly, you can use my contact form.

  11. wonderful and clear teaching! God bless you dear. By giving tiths no one can reach heaven. If os, Bill gates will be the first person to reach.This teaching is wanted for worldwide pastors who mislead people. God bless you.

    Solomon

  12. Hi Paul,

    I have been studying the tithe on my own as I have been in several churches that taught it is required. I am a retired person currently in debt due to unforseen factors and have been trying to pay off but the money just isn’t there each month, although I am sure the Lord has a plan and will help me out of this hole eventually.

    People would tell me that if I just paid the tithe to the church, God would bless me with enough and I did this at two different churches only to find myself deeper in debt as the Lord chose not to supply enough extra funds each month and instead I was confronted with necessary extra expenses. However, he has clearly told me to use my tithe for my own needs (although I give to the poor here and there) and this is helping me to get out of debt.

    I found your website by accident while I was looking for critical reviews of the World English Version of the Bible and was amazed to see a link on your site entitled “Eating your tithe.” I had been studying the same scriptiures in Deuteronomy and had come to the same conclusions. It was such a confirmation to me that someone else had also come to these conclusions. Thank you.

    Addie

  13. Hi, Addie! It certainly sounds like you’re in a tough situation. I hope you realize my point with looking at tithing in the Bible is not to make an excuse for not giving. There is always something (not necessarily money) that we can and should be giving. But tithing is used far too often as our example and standard for giving when Jesus should have that place. It’s also putting Christians back under the Law – trying to justify themselves with rulekeeping rather than having the heart of God.

    This passage especially shows that those who teach tithing are not teaching it “Biblically” even though they claim to do so. You won’t hear anyone saying you should have a party with your tithe. If they have to skip over some of the key passages in tithing to make it suit their purposes, we should be very wary of the teaching. Blessings to you.

  14. Hi Paul, 

     I have been telling folks to look at Deuteronomy 14 when discussing the tithe for over 20 years.  So many Christians have come under bondage to this heretical tithing that is preached today, it makes the heart sad. The tithe as taught today is a far heavier weight than the Hewbrews bore themselves.  What happened to the Lord Jesus’ burden being “light” and the Lord giving us “rest”?  Do tithe advocating Christians believe we are free from the ceremonial laws or not?  I echo Paul who said of the Judaizers advocating circumcision; ” I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Gal 5:12)

    When I bring out the fact that Christians are not bound by the Mosaic Law on tithing, I am often told that Christians are following Abrahams example of tithing to Melchizedeck.  If that were truly the model that Christians are supposed to follow, then we should only tithe upon the successful completion of battle to liberate our lost family members and their households and we should only do so after our private army has been sustained by bread and wine by the recipient of the tithe.  Abraham did this exactly once.  Do tithing advocates REALLY want to use that as the pattern for New Testament Christian giving?  (I say this in this fashion because I have been under heated reproach from some for daring to actually read the Scriptures and think  about what God is actually saying to us through them.)

    Should Christians give?  ABSOLUTELY.  First and foremost, Christians should give to their family.  “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Tim 5:8) They should give to support their Church and its ministers.  ““Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”” (1Tim 5:18).  Both we individually and corporately as the Church (and ministers) should give to help the poor.

    But how much should a Christian give?

    First, a Christian should only give (to the Church and those outside his/her own family) as much as they can give CHEERFULLY (and responsibly- they must still provide for their own family and they must still pay obligated debts and they must still pay their taxes).

    Second, they should give in accordance with their means.  They should not go in to debt to give (no cheating with credit cards or 2nd mortgages).

    Third, they should be honest about how much they are giving (when asked) but they should not trumpet their giving or make a big show of how much they give.

    Finally, they should not ”give until it hurts”.  God, according to the apostle Paul, does not want us to give so much that we are “hard pressed”.  If you are struggling to pay your mortgage and put groceries on the table, it is absolutely shameful for a “minister” to guilt you into paying a “tithe”.

    Open your hearts, give out of love for God and man, and give responsibly.  Don’t feel guilty if you do not have much to give, but do look for ways to improve your lot and expand your giving to others.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, but my heart is full.

    God bless you all,
    George 

  15. Thanks for your comment, George!  No need to apologize for the length.

    Your thoughts echo what I wrote in this article:  http://www.providentplan.com/1112/new-covenant-giving-guidelines-for-christians/

    I agree with what you’ve said.  I hope you’ll be around to comment more in the future!

  16. Just ran across this article. I like it.  It is interesting to that the Scriptures you provide talk about something that didn’t happen every week or month for the poor or the Levite. A meal or feast every three years?  That seems more like a time to honor them and also give them a chance to honor God through the meal more than meeting their daily needs. If they sent them back home with a wagon of groceries it would point more to “meeting of needs.”  I believe in both. Honoring the poor and also helping to meet their needs.

  17. I am happy to have run across this page and to have read the comments.  I have been trying to come to grips with tithing for  a while now.  I do well, but have many financial obligations.  I find that I can pinch and still tithe each paycheck (pre-tax) but then I stress every month about the finances, there is nothing going into any account to make sure my wife, children, and myself are provided for if needed or if there is an emergency.  This stress causes serious marital problems (almost on a monthly basis).

    But my church (which has some great teaching and really leaves me feeling challenged by God to be grow in faith) has talked about tithing in the past, quoting to the various scriptures I’m sure we are all aware.  Of course, I find it curious that this is the one law that is sited, while those immediately surrounding it are ignored (e.g., dietary requirements).  I also find it curious that the pastor of my church has a clear problem with alcohol, when Deuteronomy 14:26 talks about taking your tithe (if converted to money for transport) and then using it to purchase various things, including alcohol if that is your desire.  Finally, something that you pointed out in your article which I also was intrigued by, was the fact that we are to actually eat our tithe during a celebration to the Lord.

    So I read these things (which are all over the place) and convince myself that it is okay to donate less than 10% to my church.  Also, I find that my giving is in no way cheerful (although I am overjoyed to roll down the window and give a $20 in my wallet to man on the side of the road asking for help or to put donate that money to another group or person to aid the poor).

    Then I sit back and think, “Am I okay with concluding that the tithe is not an obligation because I just want to give less to the church so I can start putting some money away to retire one day?”  And then I hear in my mind the sermons by my preacher talking about how God said to test Him in this (Malachi 3:10) and think, “Do you want to risk your family’s blessings by reducing the tithe?”

    And, to make it worse, my wife is someone that pretty much accepts whatever the pastor says, so I know that when i discuss this subject with her, she will become very impassioned and say how I am cursing the family if I chose not to tithe a full 10%. 

    So I am stuck in a constant state of stress.  I appreciate all of your insight and hope that you or others read this so I can learn more.

    And I pray every night for guidance from the One whose advise is perfect! 

    Thank you for your input and God bless you and your family!

  18.  Hi, Michael!  I’ll just leave you with a few thoughts.  First, the point of these articles is not to find excuses for giving less but to understand what the tithe really was, how many verses about it used out of context, and to begin looking for a better model for giving.  The point is to get to a place where our giving is cheerful and joyful and not laden with guilt or obligation.

    As far as things go with your wife, I can only encourage you to walk with her in a way that is sensitive to where she is at on this journey.  You may need to make some concessions for a while until her faith is strengthened to the point where she can move beyond tithing and begin using Jesus as her model and example for giving.

    Finally, you have it perfectly right when you pray for guidance from the One whose advice is perfect.  As you walk and talk with God, He will give you the insight and guidance you are seeking.  Expect to hear His voice and listen for it at all times.  Many blessings to you.

  19. It is so easy to believe a lie when it supports our way of thinking. All those who don’t want to tithe will see here an excuse for not tithing. When I read about tithing in the Old Covenant and the purposing of it, whether it was the tithe brought as a praise/thanks offering and eaten at the Feast Of tabernacles or the tithe brought to support the Levites I understand that it was really important and people were blessed more for doing it. When I think of giving under the New Covenant where everything is better I want to give better and more. I see the tithe as a minimum or guideline for my giving. To the man whose mind is not fully persuaded and who gives wishing that he did not have to give, you will never have enough. The way the Bible puts it: He that sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly. There is a law involved here. I would rather listen to people who are giving joyfully and are being blessed that to listen to one who gives sparingly and never have enough. I know that I will never lack for anything because I tithe and go beyond the tithe. I use the tithe as a minimum.

  20. Read Proverbs 3:9 and you will see that God is teaching that giving is his will for every generation. Tithing in the Bible days were 10% of crops,cattle,etc. Today we honor The Lord in the first fruits of our increase which is our money. 10% is God’s number for giving before the Law. Abraham paid tithes to the priest which was a type of Christ before the Law of Moses. Jacob promises to give God 10% if He would be with him in his journey and bring him back home safely. Malachi 3:10 teaches to bring the tithe into the house of God. Proverbs 3:9 said all thy increase which means everything God blesses you with He is to get 10%. Jacob said all that you give me God I will give the tenth. Genesis 28:22. God teaches us not to suffer by not giving to Him. When you refuse to give what belongs to God you are stealing from Him. Malachi 3 calls it robbing God. The New Testament calls it being a thief. 1 Peter 4:15. The principle was also in the garden when God wanted that portion which was in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam could have all of the trees except the one. I wonder if there were ten trees in that garden. God shows us that when we take that which He commands not to take will have certain consequences. In 1Peter 4:15 the Word of God is saying to us who are Christians not to suffer by being a thief. I will say I was a Christian for many years before I started paying tithes and suffered many financial hardships. I have found out that the Word is true. God has fulfilled his promise by filling my barns and presses with wine. God also rebukes the devourer which is Satan from taking from me.

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