The Origins of the Tithe

No discussion about Christian giving would be complete without addressing the subject of tithing, which is encouraged in many of our


Christian congregations today. Tithing was first instituted in the book of Leviticus as a requirement for Israel. The word “tithe” means “tenth”, and it refers to giving back to the Lord a tenth, or ten percent, of all that He had provided for the children of Israel. This was one of many commands that the Lord gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites. This passage reads:


Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the                   Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.” (Leviticus 27:30-32).


Later in Numbers 18:24-26, God directed that the tithes collected from the Israelites were to be distributed to the Levites. All of the other tribes of Israel had been given lands as an inheritance from the Lord, but the Levites received no inheritance of land. Instead, their inheritance was the Lord Himself, as they had been chosen for the work of ministering before the Lord. The tithe was God’s way of providing for the Levites. The Levites were in turn required to give a tithe of all they received to the High Priest Aaron.


So it is clear that the Lord had commanded the Israelites to tithe all of the increase that He had given to them for the purpose of providing for the Levites who had received no inheritance of lands, but who had been chosen by the Lord to do the work at the Tent of Meeting. This work included the offering of the various sacrifices required by the Law.


The Israelites were required to obey this command to tithe their increase, as they were required to obey all of the laws that the Lord handed down for them through Moses. These laws are recorded in the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy, and they are referred to collectively as the “Law of Moses”.


There is no question that the people of Israel were commanded by the Lord to tithe all of the increase that He had given to them, and it is clear that these tithes were to provide for the Levites, who were chosen to minister before the Lord. The question that every Christian today should consider is this: are we as believers also required to tithe, or to give a tenth of the increase that the Lord has given to us? As with any question that we have concerning our obedience to God, we look to the Scriptures for our answers.


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