We hear a lot about tithing. Tithing is a biblical word that means “a tenth.” However, it does not mean that we are required to give one tenth of everything we make to our congregations. There are three kinds of biblical tithes: first, one tenth is given to the Levites within their Levitical cities to support the priests, the Levites, and the poor (Num 18:20-21); second, the festival tithe is a tenth taken to the Temple at festival time to share and enjoy with everyone (Dt 12:1-19, 14:22-26); and third, a tenth is taken to the local storehouses to support the poor once every three years (Dt 14:28-29, 26:12-13). The cycle of the three tithes repeats for another three years and is followed by a rest (no tithing) in the seventh year. Biblical tithing is only required of those who live in the Promised Land and raise herds or crops on it, a fact that probably disqualifies everyone reading this!
Why, then, are we so urged to “tithe”?
We need congregations so that we can have opportunities for spiritual growth and fellowship, preferably located in an adequate space with running water and electricity. Hence, congregational giving is a necessity.
However, it is not “tithing.” It is important to use correct terms. Jewish synagogues, such as Congregation Ohev Shalom in Dallas, require “membership dues,” not tithes, to support their ministry. Perhaps it is time for Messianic congregations to consider something similar. Membership dues need not be as high as a tenth of one’s income.
Additionally, congregations must consider the spiritual principles behind biblical tithing. Today’s congregations still have the duty to consider the poor. Likewise, although today’s pastors and rabbis are not the priests and Levites of the Torah, they serve a similar function and should be paid for the work they do (1 Cor 9:4-14).