What is tithe?
In Genesis 14:11-12, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah including Lot, Abram’s brother’s son were taken captive together with all their goods and provisions. Abram then organised his army, pursued them and brought back all the people and the goods, Genesis 14:14-16. He then gave all of them plus their possessions as a tithe to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Sodom), priest of God Most High, Genesis 14:18-20.
From Deuteronomy 26:12-13, we learn that the tithe is to be given to the Levite (priest), the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.
It would, therefore, follow that even individual acts of charity are to be considered as part of tithe in addition to any goods, services or money given to the church.
Should Christians pay tithe?
God instructs His people, Malachi 3:8-11, not to rob Him in tithes and offerings for those who do so are cursed. He urges us to bring the tithes to the storehouse (church) that there may be food (physical and spiritual help) in His house. He says that when we give our tithes then He shall pour out such blessing that there will be no room enough to receive it. He also adds that He will rebuke the devourer for our sakes when we obey this instruction.
Jesus admonishes the scribes and Pharisees for paying tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and yet neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith, Matthew 23:23. He continues to tell them that these they ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
We can now see that it is in our own best interest to pay tithes and offerings in order to attract the blessings of God and thus avoid curses. No one instruction of God can then be neglected in favour of another.
How often should the tithe be paid?
Deuteronomy 26:12 talks of the third year as being the year of tithing.
The people of Israel made ordinances to exact from themselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of God, Nehemiah 10:32-33. They also made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of their ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD, and also the firstborn of their sons and of their cattle, Nehemiah 10:35-36.
Apostle Paul instructs the churches, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, that on the first day of the week (Sunday) let each one lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper.
Since tithe is paid out of an increase we can then say that payment is due when the increase is realised. Salaried Christians earning monthly incomes could then pay on a monthly basis as the most convenient time for them.
How much tithe should be paid?
God instructed the Levites (priests) that when they take from the children of Israel the tithes which He has given them from the Israelites as their inheritance (their portion of the tithes), then they shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth (10%) of the tithe, Numbers 18:26. So each Levite would offer a tenth of what he has received and this would be his own tithe to the LORD.
The Israelites were to bring the tithes to the Levites (priests) and the Levites were then to bring a tenth (10%) of all the tithes they received from the people to the rooms of the storehouse, Nehemiah 10:37-38. This 10% would therefore not be available for distribution among the workers of the church but to be used in church activities.
We can therefore see that up to 90% of all tithes collected by the church (portion for priests) can be distributed to the priests and church workers, and at least 10% of all tithes collected must go directly to church activities. The priests, after taking their share of the tithes out of their portion (90%), must then pay back 10% of their own portion to the church as their own tithe to the LORD.
It is this instruction to the priests to pay back 10% of what they receive that has been translated to be a general instruction to all members to pay tithes of 10% of their increase.
Ideally, tithe giving should be made as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
Matthew 5:17-20, 6:19-21