The Assemblies of God denomination has a rich history and a robust theology. It’s convictions are strong and its ministries are influential. Tithing 10% of one’s income is an important part of many Christian churches, and a subject filled with tension in others.
The Assemblies of God denomination encourages its members to tithe 10% of their income to their location church because they believe its biblically mandated. Assemblies of God leadership also encourages pastors to preach on the importance of tithing. Some members tithe every week. Others tithe every month.
How did tithing start? What is the difference between tithes, offerings, and sacrifices? What is the biblical basis for tithing? Keep reading to learn more.
What is the meaning of tithing?
In the Christian tradition, tithing refers to giving 10% of one’s income to the church. Other religious traditions also practice tithing. The word “tithe” literally means “a tenth part.”
- The word “tithe” is an English translation of the Greek word apodekatoun, meaning “to give one-tenth”
- The English etymology is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon word teotha, meaning “a tenth part”
Sometimes Christians use the term “tithe” as a synonym for any kind of financial gift. While technically it’s incorrect to refer to “tithing 25%,” for example, such descriptions are seldom corrected. A more precise way to describe a financial donation that isn’t 10% would be an “offering” or a “gift,” depending on context.
Christians have debated tithing for centuries. Some are convinced of its biblical basis and that it’s a sin to neglect the practice. Others aren’t persuaded that the Bible requires tithing for Christians. In the history of the Assemblies of God denomination, the majority of leaders and pastors have argued in favor of the tithe as a normative practice for all Christians. Not only is tithing an act of obedience, but it also blesses the giver.
Some Christian pastors attempt to rise above the debate of tithing and focus on what the giver does with the money they keep. In other words, whether someone gives 5%, 10%, or 25% is only part of the conversation. What one does with the remaining 95%, 90%, or 75% reveals their heart and faith just as much as what they give.
What’s the difference between offering and tithing?
In the Old Testament, offerings varied in purpose and practice. For example, there were burnt offerings, voluntary offerings, and many other types.
In Christian churches today, in relation to finances, many people use the term “offering” to describe any kind of financial donation. A church may take an “offering” for an upcoming mission trip, to save for a new building, or for the youth ministry.
A tithe in the vast majority of churches refers to giving 10% of one’s income to the church. Most tithing is dedicated to the church’s general fund, though some are given to a certain ministry.
Where did tithing 10% come from?
Tithing started in the Old Testament. God commanded the Israelites to tithe, yet offering plates and cash weren’t part of the practice. The Israelites commonly tithed possessions, including food and animals. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 describes the practice of tithing.
Verses 22-23 instruct Israelites about giving 10% of produce and animals:
- 22 You must be sure to set aside a tenth of all the produce brought forth each year from your fields.
- 23 And you are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and 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 fear the LORD your God always.
Verses 24-27 address the possibility that some would find it challenging to carry produce and animals great distances:
- 24 But if the distance is too great for you to carry that with which the LORD your God has blessed you, because the place where the LORD your God will choose to put His Name is too far away,
- 25 then exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place the LORD your God will choose.
- 26 Then you may spend the money on anything you desire: cattle, sheep, wine, strong drink, or anything you wish. You are to feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household.
- 27 And do not neglect the Levite within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance among you.
Verses 28-29 explain that God used the produce and animals in part to provide for people who had needs:
- 28 At the end of every three years, bring a tenth of all your produce for that year and lay it up within your gates.
- 29 Then the Levite (because he has no portion or inheritance among you), the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come and eat and be satisfied. And the LORD your God will bless you in all the work of your hands.
Other Old Testament verses that refer to tithing include Leviticus 27:30 and Malachi 3:10,
- Leviticus 27:30, ““Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.” (ESV)
- Malachi 3:10, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (ESV)
There are more Old Testament verses about tithing than New Testament verses. Jesus refers to tithing in Matthew 23:23 and the writer of Hebrews refers to it in Hebrews 7:9-10,
- Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
- Hebrews 7:9-10, “One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” (ESV)
Debated passages: Advocates of tithing today often cite New Testament passages that describe sacrifice and generosity to build their case. For example, Matthew 23:23 reads, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” Those who don’t believe Christians are obligated to tithe interpret such verses as requirements to be generous, not specifically to give 10% of their income to their local church.
There is little evidence of tithing in the early church. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t the practice of some churches and Christians, but that there is scant record of it. For example, an early Christian writing called the Didache, which some scholars date to the first century A.D. mentions a tithe-like donation,
“In like manner, when thou openest a jar of wine or of oil, take the firstfruit and give to the prophets.”Didache 13:7
References to tithing are more frequent in the 5th and 6th centuries. Carolingian rulers in the 7th and 8th century mandated Christian tithing as a secular law. In the 12th century, monks received tithes whereas in early eras they didn’t. There was significant tension in the Reformation era in the 15th and 16th centuries regarding tithing. Though some of the tension was political, not simply biblical, the debate continues in subsequent centuries.
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