When I was young, I always thought tithes and offerings were the same.

“It’s still just giving money to God,” was what I believed. But as I grew older, I began to hear different perspectives about tithing.

  • “You don’t need to tithe, because you’re not working yet.”
  • “Tithes don’t always need to be 10% of your salary.”
  • “If I tithe, God will always bless me.”

Were these statements biblical? What was my next step when it came to stewarding my finances? I had to delve into Scripture to find out…

What are tithes and offerings?

The word “tithe” literally means “a tenth” in Hebrew. The basic idea is to set aside a portion of what we have – often the first 10% of what we’ve earned – for God.

In the Old Testament, God mandated tithing among the Israelites so that they would remember His hand of providence among them, and so as to provide for their fellow Levites who had no land as inheritance (Numbers 18:21).

As they served daily at the Lord’s temple, they were sustained by the tithes brought by their fellow countrymen.

Furthermore, every third year – the year of the tithe – the tithes from the Israelites were also to be given to the orphans, widows and foreigners in their midst (Deuteronomy 26:12-13).

God’s heart was to provide financially for these marginalised people groups (this was a law that was unheard of among other tribes and clans living on earth at that point in history!).

Tithing was so important for God’s people, that God confronted them about “robbing” Him (Malachi 3:9).

Today, tithing is still practiced by churches under the same principles.

Depending on each church’s budget, the money is distributed across various aspects to pay for the salaries of full-time staff, church maintenance, missions, discipleship materials, social services and so on.

These contributions from God’s people all go towards the building and expansion of the Lord’s kingdom through the church.

On the other hand, an offering usually describes a freewill gift (Numbers 29:39) from the believer to God, in the form of money, time or talents.

Is tithing only for those who are working?

I certainly used to think so. After all, how much can poor students give? So that was how I thought, until God changed my mind through a sermon.

Preaching from the book of Malachi, my youth minister challenged us to begin cultivating the habit of tithing as students.

A line he said then has always stuck with me: “If you can’t give God 10% of your small allowance joyfully now, what makes you think that you will be able to give 10% of your bigger income joyfully in the future?”

As such, I think it is wise to kill off a fixation on money before we start working, by cultivating spiritual habits.

Tithing consistently with our allowance, whether big or small, we will be better placed to be able to give back to God joyfully in future.

If you’re a student, I encourage you to start building the right spiritual habits now. God will lead you on a journey of learning to trust Him with all that you have.

Is tithing always fixed at 10%?

The practice of tithing is found throughout the Old Testament; God commanded that a tenth of the land, herds and flocks were to be given back to Him (Leviticus 27:30-32).

While we are no longer under the Old Covenant through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, it’s important to note that tithing is also mentioned and encouraged by Paul in the New Testament.

However, each time that Paul talks about tithing, he focuses more on the heart of the giver.

When we tithe, we ought to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7) and with a thankful heart for all that God has given us and done for us.

So while we shouldn’t be legalistic, I’ve personally found that tithing 10% is a good place to start – it reminds me and enables me never to give “leftovers” to God!

If we’re thinking of tithing less than 10%, it would be a good reason to ask ourselves why.

Why is even the “base percentage” of tithing so difficult for us? 

More than anything, tithing shows us where our heart really lies.

If we are unwilling to part with our money, could it be that we’re holding on to money more tightly than we are to God?

Matthew 6:19-21 tells us that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

Jesus cautions us not to store up our treasures here on earth, but in heaven.

Just as how tithes and offerings came at a huge cost to the Israelites, our tithes and offerings to God should come at some personal sacrifice to us.

Remember, we were bought at the highest cost

Does tithing regularly mean that I will be blessed?

Some people believe that if they give money to God, God will be pleased and bless them greatly.

These people also believe that if they don’t give money to God, nothing good will happen in their life.

But that’s not quite how it works with God. 

God’s blessings cannot be bought with our tithes or offerings.

Tithes and offerings are not a means to curry favour with God, or to put on a good performance during the period we need His blessings the most.

If we, as God’s sons and daughters, view tithes and offerings in such a transactional manner, I believe God will not be pleased at all.

Tithing is about the heart. Tithing is also about obedience, reflecting how much we trust Him to provide for us even in difficult times.

Remember the story of the woman who humbly gave her two small copper coins to God (Mark 12:41-44)?

Compared to the rich people who gave large amounts, Jesus declared that she had put in “more than everyone else”.

Despite her poverty, she had given all she had.

The quality of her giving – trusting God to provide and esteeming Him as worthy – was worth much more in the Lord’s eyes than the quantity.

In the same way, our motive for giving should not come from a desire to receive great blessings, but from a place of generosity and gratitude towards God who spared nothing for our sakes.

God is sure to provide for those who trust in Him and seek first His kingdom (Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:33).

Whether or not blessings come, we worship Him!

Overall, tithing should be about offering our first fruits to the Lord cheerfully, knowing that everything we have comes from Him and belongs to Him.

We should not just seek to raise the standard of our living, but raise our standard of giving.

I pray that we will all learn to be generous in our tithes and offerings through all the resources God has given us.

May we be a people who give generously and joyfully, to God and His people.

  1. Do you tithe or give offerings?
  2. What’s the reasoning behind your decision? 
  3. How does it align with Scripture? 
  4. What is one practical way you can be generous with money towards God and His people this week?