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What does Scripture reveal?While the details are not easily sorted out, as many as three separate tithes can be seen in the Old Testament. 1. An annual tithe for the Levites (Lev. 27:30-33) 2. An annual feast tithe for supporting the tabernacle and temple services (Deut. 14:22-27) 3. A tithe for helping the poor and needy (an alms tithe) received every third year (Deut. 14:28; 26:12).Important to note is that the tithe was not Old Testament moral law (summed up in the Ten Commandments and valid for all people of all times). Rather, it was a blend of ceremonial and civil law (like food laws and the sacrifice of animals). It was used to support Old Testament Israel as both “church and state.” The tithes and offerings and thanksgivings and temple taxes that an Israelite gave actually added up to about 33% of his income (not just 10%). These 33% gifts were for all the needs of the Theocracy (church and state).
This is crucial to remember when churches attempt to use the 10% tithe as a law to club church members into giving. America is no theocracy. An American citizen who is a Christian pays roughly 40% for federal, state and local taxes in addition to his or her first priority proportionate gifts to the work of Christ’s church. This is not said to encourage anyone to give a smaller percentage to the church, but rather to keep law-oriented demanders of the tithe in check. To demand the tithe as a New Testament law is simply not in keeping with God’s revelation in the New Testament nor the church/state context of the Old Testament.