Though the law requiring the Israelites to give ten percent of their income is a good place to start, it seems that when a specific amount doesn’t bind us, we are able to prove what our hearts are truly made of.
As you deepen your relationship with God, you may feel stirrings in your heart to give back to God as a way to say thank you for all He has done for you, but you aren’t sure how you are supposed to do this. As you dig into the Scriptures, you’ll discover that the Bible presents two different ways to give back.
Tithing and giving are actions we do as a direct result of what God has given us. We do both in faith and trust, as we recognize that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV
What is Tithing?
“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” Malachi 3:10 NIV
Tithing has been around before the time of Moses. God commanded the Israelites to tithe for three reasons:
To celebrate all that God had provided for them (Deuteronomy 14:22-26).
To support the Levites, who had no inheritance or land because their role was to serve in the Tabernacle (Numbers 20-24).
To care for the poor and needy—foreigners, fatherless, and widows (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites tithed in obedience to God, and God made it very clear that choosing not to tithe was going against His commands. In essence, they were robbing God, the church, and the poor (Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:8-9).
Yet, when they obeyed him, He blessed them even more.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV
What Is Giving?
Believers today are not bound to the Old Testament law of tithing, but that doesn’t mean the principles do not apply. Jesus and his disciples made it very clear that giving a portion of our earnings back to God is one of the ways we should worship Him.
Like tithing, giving is something we do out of faith and trust; we choose to give not because we have been commanded to but because of an outpouring of gratitude for what God has done for us. We ultimately put God's love on display when we give to the church and those in need.
As God rewarded the Israelites for their obedience with their tithes, he also rewards us for our generosity.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 NIV
The Differences Between Tithing and Giving
Tithing and giving share quite a few similarities, yet there are some key differences.
Some of the ways they are alike are that they both:
Celebrate what God has done for us.
Display our faith and obedience to God.
Help support those who cannot provide for themselves.
Lead to continued blessings.
To help you gain a greater understanding, I have outlined four major differences between tithing and giving:
Why We Would Choose Tithe or Give (Law vs. Spirit)
The Old Testament law is specific regarding tithing. The Israelites were not only encouraged to tithe but were commanded to. Furthermore, they had rules to follow regarding how they were to do so. It was not a choice but a law with many layers they were required to follow.
In the New Testament, not much is said about tithing; rather, the focus shifts away from the law of tithing and to the heart of giving. The law of the land no longer leads us in how we are to give back to God; instead, we are led by the Holy Spirit that lives inside us.
While tithing and giving are tied to giving back to God a portion of what he gave to us, they are different because when the Israelites gave, it was because they were required to do so. This law ensured that those who could not support themselves would be taken care of through the tithes of those that could.
Not much has changed in the modern-day church. In my church, we are called every service to give tithes and offerings; the difference is we don’t tithe because it is law but because we feel compelled and convicted in our hearts to do so. As God blesses us in our work, we are to be generous to those less fortunate than us and to the church to support those who work in ministry.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 NIV
How Much We Should Give?
If you were an Israelite in the Old Testament, you would’ve been bound by the law, which specifically stated that you were to give back ten percent of your firstfruits.
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” Deuteronomy 14:22 NIV
Since we aren’t held to the old law of tithing anymore, and since giving is a matter of the heart, does it really matter how much and what we give?
As the Spirit leads us to give, we should listen to the prompting in our hearts and obey. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV
Jesus observed people putting money in the offering box. The rich people put in large amounts of money, but He wasn’t impressed until a poor widow placed two small coins in the box. He said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44 ESV
Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter since we are to give as we feel led; but there’s something to be said about those who give even when they have very little to give. Although the widow had little to her name, she felt compelled to give what she had, and because of this, Jesus took notice.
Though the law requiring the Israelites to give ten percent of their income is a good place to start, it seems that when a specific amount doesn’t bind us, we are able to prove what our hearts are truly made of. Being less fixated on a number, we can instead focus on convictions in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and discern how much we are to give.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24
What We Should Give
The Israelites didn’t give by way of money. In fact, maybe you caught the word “first fruits.” Rather than selling their produce and livestock for money to give to God, they were instructed to bring the first tenth of what they grew and raised into the storehouse or to the city gates to be distributed directly to the ones that needed it.
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.” Deuteronomy 14:22-23 NIV
Sometimes, they had to travel a long way to deliver their tithes, so God made a plan for them:
“But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish.” Deuteronomy 14:24-26 NIV
Today, we have it easy. We go to work, we get a paycheck, and then we write a check to the church. The act of giving couldn’t be more simple. Giving monetarily just makes sense in our society.
There are also several other ways to give, depending on how we feel compelled. The church provides many opportunities for us to help others through tithes and offerings, community fundraisers, backpack and school supplies drives, feeding the homeless, sponsoring a child in a third-world country, and so much more.
However you are led to give, you should give. Many people cannot provide for themselves, so remember that you truly give to the Lord as you aid others.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35-40 NIV
Whether you feel inclined to follow the law or the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the main point is that we give back a portion of our earnings to the church and those in need.
Tithing and giving each allow us to celebrate all God has done for us, bless those who have less than we do and are unable to provide for themselves, and is an act of obedience and faith, knowing that everything we have was given to us by God.
If you aren’t sure what to do, ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and show you how you can give back.
Above all else, be wary of giving with the wrong heart. As you are led to give, do so with a cheerful and willing heart.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 NIV
For more on tithing, check out Four Principles of Tithing I Discovered.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/NoLiMiT_Bkk
Jennifer Jabbour resides in the scenic San Diego countryside with her husband, teenage son and daughter, and their hilarious English Bulldog. Jennifer has a B.A. in Integrated Business Communications and a life-long desire to share her faith with others so they can also experience the joy of having a relationship with God. She has finally decided it's time to go after her lifelong dream of writing and publishing her first book, and hopefully many, many more thereafter. Besides being a writer, Jennifer is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a photographer, and an avid outdoors-woman. She loves camping, hiking, running, and playing the piano in her free time.
You can keep up with Jennifer on her website https://www.jenniferjabbour.