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When trying to distinguish between tithes and offerings, it is important to first understand the concept of tithing. Christians today often think that what they give to their local church is a tith...
A tithe is an amount (a percentage of your income) that is demanded by God. An offering is anything given to God beyond the tithe. The modern establishment of Christian clergymen generally seems to delineate as such: 1) 10% of your gross income should go towards your local church. This is your tithe. 2) Anything left over that you can give over is an offering. The Biblical basis for this is not so precise. There is absolutely no New Testament legalistic declaration that one must produce 10% of his gross income to the local church. What we do have are examples of monotheistic (Jewish) governments whereby there was a setting aside of ten percent of each family's "first fruits", the first crops grown, which would go towards community care for feeding hungry families during winters and famines. Additionally, communities supported their local temple and/or tabernacle, in worship to God. There was no specific, set aside amount. In the story of Moses, the people were so caught up in their appreciation of what God had done for them (set them free from captivity) that they gathered up literally all of their precious valuables and handed them over for the tabernacle, where they could worship God. It was so much that Moses actually said, "Stop, ha ha, stop! We have too much already!" But really what God wants from us is not 10%. We also do not need to fill up a "tabernacle" with gold and other pretty stuffs. In the new covenant, our bodies are the temple of God, and brethren (fellow believers) are the church. It is still a good thing to have a designated place to go to fellowship with other believers, and a place to get away from worldly influences to focus on God (a sanctuary). However, where "tithe" actually referred to supporting not only the priesthood and the temple in Old Testament times, where "ten percent" was demanded it was actually in civic interests. To that end, if you are paying an income tax to your government, especially if it is extracted from your pay via W-4 withholdings, and your government fulfills some roles in supporting the community (such as unemployment), then you are already fulfilling this obligation. Where government does not assist the needs of the community properly and does not assist in the roles of clergymen (teachers of the Bible and of Christian doctrine) to match up with Old Testament usage of tithes, you may want to fill that gap on your own and call that a "supplemental tithe". It would be less than 10% because the government already took more than 30% for civic interests. These things said, God is not looking for 10% of your income. What he wants is 100% of yourself. This includes all of your income. New Testament doctrine is that you have been bought out at a price, and as a free person you are now Christ's "slave". Where money is placed into your hands, by giving yourself and "your" money back to Him, He then places it back in your hands and asks you to be a steward of His money, and of His body (your body, and your brothers and sisters). This should enable you to assign any amount of money to any church or charity as the Spirit of God guides you. The Biblical definition of "worship" is this: Offer your own self as a living sacrifice to God. As such, while a traditional and legalistic clergyman might argue that tithes are mandatory 10% gross income given to the local church, and offerings are bonus gifts, I would argue that the local church should be given something, or nothing, as needed, as should various other charities be given something, or nothing, as needed, and you should do as the Spirit of God leads you. Do so in secret, make it between you and God. Make the most of your brain as a manager of God's resources.
First, we need to go back to when the first tithe was given, Gen 14:18-20. Abram/Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek (notice Melchizedek blessed him first) before it was incorporated into the Mosiac Law – Lev 27:30-33. It was possibly incorporated into law as a reminder for the Israelites to continue the requirement. Yes, they used agricultural crops and herds and some did use money if they didn't give the requirement but they were penalized for it. (Leviticus) Everyone gets hung up on whether tithing is under the law. It didn't start with the law. It’s giving back what you have received from God. Everything belongs to Him and we are to be good stewards of it! (Ps 24:1; 1 Cor 10:26). 2 Cor 9:6-12 tells us to be cheerful givers. Take the tenth as a starting point or suggestion in your giving. Restaurants ask for more. Most of all, think about why you are giving or why you have a problem with giving.
What is the difference between tithes and offerings? A tithe is 10% of your annual income gained from agricultural or animal husbandry. They were mandated under the Old Covenant. Christians are not required to tithe under the New Covenant. Offerings are free will, a person gave as their heart moved them to and this is what Christians do to-day. We should remember what Paul says, "God loves a cheerful giver". We as believers should always remember the poor, widows and fatherless as in doing so we will be practicing true religion. Jmas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. The word "visit" would also mean to provide if there is a need to be filled!
In simple terms tithe is a fixed % of all your income, in fact 10% or a tenth. On the other hand an offering is exactly that - what you offer to God as your heart desires. The principle of tithing is very simple, the 10% never belonged to you in the first place. It should be considered as belonging to God and you are only a conduit for delivery. That is why God says that we have robbed Him because we have taken that which belongs to Him - that is robbery. Offerings on the other hand are at your discretion. However in my opinion, they should not be viewed as giving what is left over when we have taken care of our needs. Rather it should be budgeted for, money should be deliberately set aside as a present to our God. Remember the story of the old poor widow? She did not take care of her own needs first and then offered the remainder, but she gave all. Jesus commented and said in Mark 12:43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury. This was reminiscent of the gift that God gave to humanity when He gave Jesus, His only begotten Son. He gave all. Our income is not limited to money only. A rancher should tithe on his head of cattle, and a farmer can tithe on his harvest. This institution was not limited to the Jews/ Hebrews but to all those who worship God. Tithe is still applicable to all including our generation.
I agree the tithe began in the O.T. at a time that the Jewish gov't was a theocracy. The tithe was to support the people and provide against seasonal deficiencies of grain and food and perhaps coins. It was community supporting each other per Command from God. Offerings were made for separate issues and needs. Perhaps a goat or bull or lamb for burnt offerings. We no longer do that and neither do the Hebrews. Matt. 23:23 has been used as an interpretation to continue tithing to NT Christianity. Early on that may have been plausible as new Jewish believers were trying to survive tremendous persecution. Add in confusion from pagan gentiles and misunderstanding of law and liberty has prevailed to this day. John MacArthur wrote a book entitled, "Who's Money is it Anyway?" The gist of his teaching was that it all belongs to God, who loans it to us. The tithe (10%) was mandatory but add in the offerings as outlined in Scripture and the bill might total 20 - 25%. Malachi 3:10 is often used as a reinforcement for the continuation of NT church tithing. The words test me, and I will pour out blessing from heaven are the focal points. However, for NT believers, we should heed the words of Dr. J. Vernon McGee who observed that 'All blessing has been poured out from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ.' The Hebrew gov't had no system of tax other than God's principle of tithing and offerings. In todays world and the USA specifically, taxes have replaced the theocratic tithe. While we are not a theocracy it certainly has an impact on disposable income. Did God confer the idea of tithing to the church and does the church have the authority to assume its benefits? Perhaps it does. While it has correctly been pointed out that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, that does not mean he obliterated the law. If he had, then murder, theft, and all kinds of debauchery are legit practices. Instead, He reinforced the ten commandments. Love the lord God with all your mind, soul, body, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Give a tithe, God will bless. Give an offering, God will bless. Don't give, God has blessed. But whatever you do, do it as to the Lord, not out of compulsion, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver. The bible tells of the woman who gave a mite and a farthing, yet she is singled out for an example that pleased God as she had given all that she had. God did the same thing for us in Jesus. Because of Jesus, we are no longer under the condemnation of the law, but we are better off adhering to its guidelines, examples, and warnings. 2Tim. 3:16a says, "All scripture is inspired by God". That was written by Paul and is NT teaching. It may be a cliché, but we can never out give God. A tenth was expected for God's provision, an offering reflects our love for God and our neighbors. Both are covered in the two great commandments. Both are acts of obedience. Both can be abused by men in church hierarchy and in the pews. In all cases, good stewardship is necessary to maintain accountability.
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