What is Tithing?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

When people set aside a set portion of their income for the Church, this is known as tithing. Tithing is practiced in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, and some other religions have a form of tithing as well. By tradition, a tithe is classified as 10% of someone's income, although in the modern day, tithing typically represents a much smaller percentage, with one to three percent being more common.

Churches may use tithing income to send missionaries to other countries.
Churches may use tithing income to send missionaries to other countries.

The Old Testament provides ample support for the practice of tithing, although tithing was not widely practiced in the Christian church until almost the seventh century. Before tithing became an integral part of Christian faith, however, Christians still gave generously of their incomes to support the Church and its teachers. For those without money, such donations might take the form of manufactured goods, farmed foods, and various services to support the Church.

Tithing is particular popular among Christians.
Tithing is particular popular among Christians.

In some parts of the world after the seventh century, tithing became an obligation, with all people required to pay tithes. Tithing income was used to support religious officiants, to build churches and other monuments to the faith, and to perform the works of the Church, ranging from sending missionaries to providing food for the poor. The rate of the tithe varied, depending on what was being tithed; farmers might be tithed for grain, for example, while wineries surrendered part of their wine as a tithe. Tithes were stored in a tithing barn for use or sale by the Church and its officials.

The practice of mandatory tithing still exists in some regions; Catholics, for example, are required to tithe in some European countries. Failure to pay at least 1% of your income to the Church is punishable, with the Church being given the legal right to sue people who fail to pay their tithes, unless people testify to the effect that they are leaving the Church. In other regions, tithing is simply encouraged, and in many cases it is tax-deductible, along with other charitable donations.

Tithing doesn't just have to be for Christians and members of the Jewish faith, although it is closely associated with these religions. Agnostics and atheists may choose to set aside a portion of their income for charity to support their communities just as Christians support the Church and its works with tithing. Some people find that dedicating part of their income to charity is very rewarding, as it establishes a connection with the community, and allows people to encourage projects and works which they think are particularly meritorious.

Tithing may be used to help the less fortunate in the community.
Tithing may be used to help the less fortunate in the community.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


We've misinterpreted "giving" and have taken it so casually. In modern times we always relate it to income. Giving 10 percent of your income is fairly easy. But the Lord said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me" A true interpretation of giving is in giving love, just the way Mother Teresa did.

Look into the eyes of the orphaned, the destitute, the lepers, the sick and you will know what the Lord wants you to "give". Rather than paying the church, which has enough wealth, it would always be a humbling experience to do something meaningful by spending time with children in an orphanage or with the old in an old age home.


I am a Christian but I don't believe in tithing 10 percent of our gross automatically to our church. I believe in charity and helping and more than likely be more than willing to give to various charities if I was allowed to participate.

However, my husband writes those checks out without any consideration for my feelings, and even when I have asked him not to give based on my paychecks, he still will pay. In my heart, I think he thinks he is buying his way to heaven. It is sad. He is a life long member of his church, where I am a convert. Any suggestions?


@anon247412: I am not certain what the legality of this is. I cannot imagine that any church would publish individual members' regular contributions and frankly, any that would, would not have me as a member.

Honestly, I would consult an attorney about the legality of this, since this is a private contribution to a church.


Is it legal for a church to make my personal tithe statement available for public knowledge?


I'll be upfront and say I am no longer a practicing Christian, but I used to be, and I still support the idea of giving to others.

Analysis of tithing in the New testament suggests it can be money, time, patience or knowledge that you share. I continue to practice this philosophy every day, albeit outside of traditional religious frameworks.

In my opinion the key point is that you give freely and generously, something which I find appealing. I don't keep scores or tallies on what I do and I don't expect things to be returned by the person who I give something to.

At the end of the day tithing scripture can be interpreted in many ways, but so long as we all follow the same principles of caring and sharing without impoverishing ourselves I think it's all good.


Tithing is not only a religious thing anymore - I was reading that some who believe in the law of attraction also believe in giving a portion of their money away in order to "allow" money to return to them.


@NathanG - I shudder to think what that would do to most churches. I am afraid the answer is that there would be a drop in tithes collected.

I would hope it’s not a sizable drop, since people who tithe out of conviction do so in the belief that God is going to bless them, with or without the tax deduction. Nonetheless, I think there would be a little drop in collections.


This is a bit of a different angle on the topic, but I wonder what would happen if the IRS lifted its tax deduction on charitable contributions? What would happen to the tithe?

Do you think we would have more people tithing or fewer-especially, as pointed out, only a minority in the church world actually practice tithing?


@miriam98 - I agree. I think, however, some people believe that New Testament tithing is actually a fiction-that tithing was only taught in the Old Testament.

From what I’ve read, however, Jesus condoned the tithe. A tithing Bible scripture to easily support this position comes from his rebuke of the Pharisees. He told them that they had tithed mint and other things but had neglected the weightier matters of the law like justice.

Then He said they should not have left the tithe “undone” but just practiced the more important parts of the law. Clearly, Jesus did not preach against the tithe. Then in the book of Hebrews it makes a reference to tithing and says that Jesus now receives them, or something to that effect. Tithing is in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.


@Domido - While it’s easy to decry preachers who deliver tithing sermons, it’s important to realize one important fact: the majority of parishioners in many churches do not tithe. I believe I heard somewhere that statistically it’s something like 20%, which reminds me of the 80/20 rule. In this case, 20% of the people are helping to pay the bills.

So tithing sermons, in my opinion, are not the result of money-grubbing preachers. They are a reality necessitated by the fact that only a minority of the people in the church are helping that church to pay its pastor and keep the lights on.

People come to church expecting to receive something but not realizing that a church needs to operate just like a business needs to operate. No, it’s not a for-profit operation, but it has bills to pay and a pastor to support.


Do you think that the church financial records of tithing expenditures should be made available to the public?

I think that the use of tithing funds should be made available to the public, just as with any person who works in a public office.

I find it strange that many churches do not disclose their financial statements to their members.

I believe that if churchgoers are expected to contribute to the church monetarily, that they should be able to see where the money is being spent. If it is used for lunches for the homeless, to pay a pastors salary or to help missionaries, great. Unfortunately, not everyone can be trusted to keep their wits about them when dealing with a lot of funds, so I think public accountability should be mandatory.


I think that any mandatory tithing is terrible and should be removed from the law books in countries that enforce it. Religion is supposed to be a choice, and giving what you can to the church an act of charity and support for that which you believe in. Treating tithing like a tax is unjust and I don't think any religion has the right to come after your personal income if you don't feel that they deserve it.

With modern churches losing more and more followers, and many struggling to survive, I believe that they need to figure out what is more important, collecting fees or preaching the word of their god.


I will tell you one thing that absolutely turns me off – that is to go to a church where the only sermon the preacher knows about is tithing. Or to watch a television preacher who only wants you to send money.

We need to give to the building fund and we need to give to the food bank and we have to give to the preacher himself so that he can have a raise.

I don’t think that is what tithing is meant for, and I don’t think that it’s godly practice, either. I do believe that we should give to the less fortunate, and to the church. I mean, you've got to pay the electric and the water somehow. I simply question it when money is all that the preacher feels obligated to talk about.

It seems to me that he might have something to say about Jesus or God on occasion, as well. I’m just saying.


@Robbie – I am a Christian and I do tithe the entire 10% to my church and people in need. However, my husband’s income isn’t tithed to that point – out of that money, we give what we can. And I had the same question you did; to give before or after taxes. I think I solved it fairly easily though.

There are some specific references about tithing in the Bible, some in the Old and New testaments. It can be a bit confusing, I know. The old testament does call for 10%, but the new testament is what we live by now.

We ultimately decided that the way we give is more important than how much we give. After all, God doesn’t really need our money. We must give with a pure and willing heart, even when it might mean a little sacrifice on our part.

We couldn’t give the gross 10% and actually survive, though. It really would have made that big of a difference for us. So, I tithe 10% of what I bring home – but when I get my tax return, I also tithe 10% of that.

This might not work for you if you don’t get a tax return, but it works really well for us.

I think the Lord knows your heart anyway. And He also wants you to pay your bills and take care of your family, too.

Pray about it, and do what the good Lord leads you to do without question. He'll make sure you're okay.


@Robbie21 - What goes in the tithing envelope is between you and God, but I read somewhere that you should ask yourself if you want a net blessing or a gross blessing!

Now, obviously it's not that straightforward; you don't buy blessings. But a lot of religions have the idea that good works come back to you (e.g., karma). I have a sister who thinks that if she looks for money on the ground and picks it up whenever she finds it, she has better luck with money in general.

And think about it. Who do you think deserves to get paid first--church and charity, or the government?


If you want to tithe a set percent of your income, should tithes and offerings be based on your net income (after taxes) or your gross income? Who gets paid first?

My goal is to do the whole 10%, but not all to one place--some to church, some to secular charities.

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