We may be thoroughly convinced that tithing should still be practiced today, and that our giving attitude can truly touch God’s heart. Yet a big question often remains. How do we practically tithe today? The economic system today is vastly different from the Old Testament and most of us no longer deal in terms of bulls, sheep, wheat, fruits and such. Instead, we have complications such as shares, dividends, inflation and so on.
As part of our on-going series on Tithing, we address these practical issues by unpacking the biblical principles involved and translate it into our modern context as best we can. What we outline are suggestions as we must remember that we are working on the basis of principles rather than requirements. Hence, the recommendations we make here is to help bring clarity, rather than to espouse any rules.
At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith and personal conscience before God. Even on that note, it does us well to remember Luke 6:38 (NIV) Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The generosity by which we give will be the generosity by which God may well measure back to us.
To gain the full context of our Tithing series, the full series are:
Tithing Part 1: The Biblical Principle
Tithing Part 2: Distinguishing Tithes and Offerings
Tithing Part 3: Giving From Our Hearts
Tithing Part 4: Blessings of Giving
Tithing Part 6: Tithing in a Spiritual Network (a coming article)
PRACTICAL TITHING FOR PERSONS (INDIVIDUALS OR FAMILIES)
Following are some key recommendations.
Recommendation 1: Tithe out of gross income
The biblical principle is based upon Leviticus 27:30–32 (NIV) 30 “ ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. 32 Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord.”
The tithe is to be given from the gross product, the gross increase.
We should note that God requires 10% of everything that is produced from the land, flock and agriculture because all of these belong to God. God did not state that the tithe was to be given after payment of taxes, debts and other liabilities, etc. In other words, the tithe is to be given from the gross product, the gross increase.
We should tithe out of our gross income, which should consider all our sources of income.
Most of us are employed with a salary or income. Therefore, it is a relatively simple matter to sort out. We should tithe out of our gross income, which should consider all our sources of income. Whatever part of our income that is cash, or liquid asset, we should tithe out of that portion. In situations where our income includes non-liquid assets such as shares, see the Recommendation 2.
Recommendation 2: Tithe on the non-liquid assets only after it has been converted.
How do we deal with non-liquid income, perhaps in the form of shares? Let us consider Lev 27:32 (NIV) “Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod…” Notice that only every tenth animal is taken, usually counted as the newborns birthed in that year or season. God did not expect that if there were 19 newborns, that 1 and 9/10th of an animal be given. Only 1 newborn was given as tithe.
Tithes of non-liquid income (such as shares) should only be made when it is converted to liquid form such as cash.
Having understood the above practical approach taken by God, we recommend that tithes of non-liquid income (such as shares) should only be made when it is converted to liquid form such as cash. That is, at the point of sale. I believe this is important practically as some have taught that we should tithe of our shares. But if we have shares worth $100,000 where would we find $10,000 cash to give? It is not always possible to sell a portion of those shares to give as tithes.
Now let’s deal with a nit-picking issue. Consider the above example of the shepherd who had 19 newborns in year 1 and then 27 newborns in year 2. How should he tithe? He could have tithed 1 newborn in year 1 and 2 newborns in year 2 and fulfilled his obligations. But he could say, “The Lord has blessed me with 46 newborns in the past 2 years so I will tithe a total of 4 newborns.” Which is right? What your conscience and generosity say before God. That is how we could approach this aspect because surely in this modern world it can be quite complicated.
Recommendation 3: There is no need to tithe again on the same items.
Tithing should be done only once for any produce or increase in wealth.
It may seem obvious that tithing should be done only once for any produce or increase in wealth. But practically it can be confusing at times. Let me offer an insignificant example which probably occurs frequently. Consider a devoted Christian family that tithe faithfully from their gross income. The parents then give to their little children every Sunday a few dollars for them to give as tithes in their Sunday school. Tithes has already been given for the monies that the children received. There is no need to tithe upon it again. Of course, the parents are trying to teach their children the principle and habit of tithing. Their intent and generosity are commendable.
In Christian families where income earners (such as parents) give their dependents (such as children or dependent relatives) pocket money or income, if we assume that the income earners have already tithed faithfully, there is therefore no need for the dependents to tithe their pocket money. Though again, it is up to the dependents whether they would like to tithe of what their have received. It is a matter of their personal generosity and conscience before God.
Now consider the situation where we tithed out of our gross income and put some of the amount in our superannuation funds. Upon retirement, when we withdraw the funds, there is no need to tithe upon those funds but perhaps only upon the component of increase in value. However, if the contributions to our superannuation were not tithed upon previously then it makes sense to tithe out of our withdrawals.
Hopefully these examples make it clearer to think through these practical situations. But remember, we are working with principles. We should not become petty like the Pharisees and count every grain, as God sees the heart foremost.
Recommendation 4: There is no need to tithe from our income producing assets
What if we have assets such as our car which we use as a taxi, equipment we own and require for our trade or investments, whether it be shares, investment homes used for rental, etc? Should we tithe of those as well?
Consider again Leviticus 27:30 (NIV) “ ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Notice that it is the produce, the increase in wealth that God asks for a tithe. The fruits are tithed but not the tree. God has no expectation that we chop off a tenth of a tree to give to God.
There is no expectation that we tithe out of those income-producing asset itself. We only tithe from what it produces.
Therefore, there is no expectation that we tithe out of those income-producing asset itself. We only tithe from what it produces. Otherwise, we may compromise our ability to keep producing more. Furthermore, if we had already originally tithed of our income faithfully and used the remainder to purchase the income-producing assets, then it has already been fully accounted for.
Recommendation 5: Tithe with consideration of inflation
In the Old Testament times, there were minimal inflation hence instructions on the value of certain items could be done in terms of an assumed unchanging value of the shekel. Exodus 21:32 (NIV) “If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.”
However, today’s economy is confronted with inflation which can be very significant at times. The outcome is that the price of everything increases over time significantly. Though its real value, compared to other things may not.
Now let’s consider some present world examples. Consider that you own a house you lived in for 20 years and upon selling it, the price has doubled. Should you give a tithe out of the increase? A key principle to consider is Proverbs 3:9 (NIV) Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.
It is good to tithe out of the profit after taking inflation into account.
The key question is did the increase in house price actually lead to an increase of your wealth? Due to accumulated inflation over 20 years, it is quite possible that the doubling of the house price may have led to a decrease in wealth. Because to buy another similar house, with everything else equal, may cost more than price you sold your house for. However, say you did something smart financially perhaps renovated the house, rezoned or sub-divided your land. Now the price has tripled or more. Then it is obvious that you increased your wealth. In such a case, it is good to tithe out of the profit after taking inflation into account.
Let’s now apply this to shares. Let’s say you bought some shares in a company. Remember Recommendation 2 where we recommended giving tithes on its profits only after it has been sold, not while it is still in your portfolio. Over the past decade its value has tripled and you sold it to realise the gain. If that is more than the inflation over the past decade, you could consider it a profit and tithe out of the profit after deducting for inflation. Or alternatively, you could compare it to the stockmarket average index. The idea being that to purchase new shares, the prices has increased (or decreased) over time at a different rate to inflation. You are thus comparing like to like just as you did for house to house.
Again, it is important not to get excessively caught up in minutiae of details. Our heart should be to honour God by tithing out of the increase of our wealth.
Recommendation 6: There is no need to tithe out of gifts.
God required tithes from the produce, the increase in overall wealth. If a person gifts to another 10 sheep, God does not require a tithe of 1 sheep from the gift. It does, however, implicitly assume that a tithe was previously given from the previous owner. Hence, if no tithe was given previously then it may be argued that a tithe may be given now. Yet there is no Scripture that directly or indirectly references that aspect. So our recommendation is that there is no need to tithe out of gifts. However, you may wish to. Again, it is up to your generosity and conscience.
Recommendation 7: Tithes should be given to the local church
Tithes should be given to where we received our spiritual covering. Just as the Israelites would give their tithes to the local Levites where they received religious instruction and spiritual/pastoral care. If we wish to give towards missions and other Christian organisations, it should be out of our offerings.
When we give of our tithes to the local church it should not be designated giving.
When we give of our tithes to the local church it should not be designated giving. Just as tithes were given unto God and passed on to the Levites, no Israelite were to specify how it is to be used. Tithes were to be given wholly to God and it was the Levites responsibility to use it wisely for the ministry.
If we want to give towards missions, building or other specific purposes, it should come from our freewill offerings.
If we want to give towards missions, building or other specific purposes, it should come from our freewill offerings.
Recommendation 8: Tithing and debt
A question that arises is when a person is in debt. Would it not be better to first pay off the debt before giving of tithes?
Tithes are holy unto God and we cannot give what is holy to others, including our creditors.
When we search through the Scriptures, we find no options provided to any person to pay off their debts with tithes. For tithes are holy unto God and we cannot give what is holy to others, including our creditors. It seems that God expects us to give our tithes to Him first regardless of other circumstances in our lives. In fact, in God’s laws, if a person is unable to repay the debts, the person can become servitude to the creditor. In other words, the Old Testament circumstances is perhaps even more difficult than what it is today. Really, it is finally a matter of faith and obedience unto God.
PRACTICAL TITHING FOR CHRISTIAN COMPANIES
Principle 1: Treat companies like a corporate person.
Companies should be treated like a corporate person who should tithe unto God as well.
In the Old Testament times there were no companies and corporations. For everything is owned by an owner or family. This is not so today where considerable wealth can be owned by corporate entities. Hence, it is only logical that companies should be treated like a corporate person who should tithe unto God as well.
However, it is a bit more complex due to the nature of this corporate person. The corporate person gains a gross income which may be calculated as the profit after deducting all expenditures including salaries, before tax. A tithe could be given out of that gross income.
Principle 2: Tithe should not be given out of liabilities.
When giving the tithe, it should not be taken out of the portion that rightfully belongs to employees, creditors, stockholders, government, etc. For example, if a business has an employee fund set aside, the tithe should never be taken out of that fund.
Some Christian businesses have chosen to give partial ownership to the Lord. The idea is that as the business prospers, so does the Lord's portion. Another option if there is stock involved, is to create a foundation for Christian work. And give a tithe of stocks and dividends to it. These are attempts to honour God in practical ways and to give towards the Christian work.
Since most companies do not have tangible spiritual covering, it is up to the owners or directors to determine the best way to give the tithes. Many choose to give it towards a wide spectrum of Christian organisations.
Our present context can be considerably different from the Old Testament, and this does complicate how we apply tithing practically. Yet as we carefully discern the biblical principles, we can work out practically, for the most part, how we can tithe and honour God. It is crucial not to be lost in the details of the recommendations but to always remember that tithing is a principle and that our giving should be from our hearts. It is our faith, obedience and generosity that matters the most to God.
Copyright©️2023 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.