Tithing Gross or Net: A Biblical Review

I think there’s more expressions surrounding money than there is any other thing: “Show me the money”, “Time is money”, “Money is the root of all evil”. You get the idea. Money is near and dear to the heart because it represents the fruits of our labor. As we get older and wiser, we tend to tighten our wallets because we understand the value of what we save for rainy days. Losing money is not something we like to do.

When I first heard someone ask, “Do I tithe from the gross or net?”, I had to laugh. It seemed like a funny question. It still makes me laugh a little bit when the question comes up. God forbid that you’re so greedy by being meticulous in how you slice the pie. Perhaps you forgot it’s a tax deduction?

No church has money problems, only faithfulness problems.

Despite my indifferent attitude on the earnings gap before our Creator, there are some who wonder about such basics of tithing. If you’re one of those people, I can’t say I blame you. We live in a church age where pastors reside in elite neighborhoods and they run their churches like a Fortune 50 company. Most of them are truly non-prophet organizations. No wonder you have doubts when the offering plate goes by!tithe gross

I recall from my youth the scandals surrounding pastor Robert Tilton when it was made public that the peoples “prayer donations” were being tossed aside after the check was removed. He’s by no means the only “name it & claim it, blab it & grab it” preacher out there, our modern age is littered with such men. Those kind of leaders really kill the spirit of giving.

Tithing existed even before the Levitical ordinance

Let’s move past the greed of unscrupulous men so we can look at the biblical approach to tithing. We can start by defining the word. As most know, a “tithe” is a tenth. We see the first action of tithing in the book of Genesis with Abram when he came back victorious from battle so let’s read it:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Gen 14:18-20)

The spiritual significance of this account in Genesis is expounded upon by the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews:

But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. (Heb 7:6-10)

One could argue that tithing is mentioned even earlier with Cain and Abel but the passage lacks details. This is probably because the point of the passage is not about giving but rather the murder Abel that took place. None the less, the mention of Cain’s offering getting no respect is quite notable.
As we move away from Genesis and further into the pentateuch, we encounter all of the Levitical laws that pertained to tithing for the Jewish people. “For the Jewish people” is an important observation because there is a distinction between Jew and gentile. Gentiles are not under Jewish law. If you want to hammer on that fact, nowhere in the New Testament do you see gentiles or the gentile church engaged in an act of tithing. The oft [mis]quoted Matthew 23:23 is also directed towards the Jewish people. We see offerings in 1Co 16:2 but these are not the mandatory donations of ten percent that Israel was burdened with. The ordinance of tithing, as listed in Old Testament law, does not exist for the New Testament church. The ordinances were done away with (Heb 9 among others talk about this).

So tithing is unbiblical and you don’t need to worry about it, much less worry about the gross or net – wrong! The truth about tithing is deeper than that over used cliche of ‘we are not under the law’. If you’re willing to forgo the truth to save your wallet then go ahead and stop reading here. I’ll even give you a few dot-dot-dots so you have time to think about it . . . . . . . . . . ok, times up. Let’s leave the shallow end of the pool for some heavier doctrine. Ready to sink or swim?

Abram paid tithes BEFORE the law. When Abram met Melchizedek and gave him a tenth of the spoils, he was not under the yoke of Levitical law. The act of giving a tenth of one’s increase came before Moses. To reject the principal of giving on the basis of Old Testament ordinances is an unfounded argument. If it was good practice BEFORE the law, it stands to reason it’s probably a good practice AFTER the law as well.

None the less, some of you are probably stubborn with your reasoning skills so I’ll give you a point that you can argue back with: Circumcision was also before the law but it is not required for the New Testament church. Hah!! You got me. Now I can’t say tithing is required just because it was practiced before the law. If such were the case then the burden of being circumcised would have been placed upon the gentile church as well. We’d be bound by both the circumcision and tithing ordinances. So there, case closed. End of story. Ummmm, not exaclty.

I find the above argument on tithes is pretty rock solid but there’s a needle in the haystack of Scriptures that pulls the rug out from under it. That proverbial needle is found in none other than the book of Proverbs:

Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Pro 3:9-10)

Proverbs 3:9-10 tells us to honor God with our increase. That means our paycheck AND our garden veggies if we grow them. That simple passage, unlike the other bible verses on giving, can not be written off as Levitical ordinance nor can it be confined to the realm of ‘pre-law’. It pertains to everyone. If you can do away with that verse (which you can’t) then you can do away with the entire book of Proverbs; in which case you’d be undermining the authority of Scripture. The truth about tithing stands firm. Honoring the Lord with the increase of your wealth is a biblical precendent.

If we do less under grace than under the law, it’s a disgrace.”

Giving is naturally a hard thing to do. It is even harder in the face of greedy, corporate driven churches who do not honor widows or feed the poor. I could write pages about the financial mismanagement of churches but I’ll refrain. Suffice it to say I have felt that mismanagement first hand. I hate it when the vast majority of verses pastors quote on giving have absolutely nothing to do with your tithes & offerings (Luke 6:38 for example). If you are a member of such a church then I understand why you feel pained every time the offering plate comes by. None the less, your obedience to God doesn’t isn’t contingent upon the obedience of others.

As for tithing off the gross or net, well, that’s just a silly question. You can’t tithe off of what you don’t have! But you shouldn’t get hung up on such questions or try to “split hairs” with God. I’ll leave you with one verse that, despite being abused, remains very true:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2Co 9:7)

12 Responses to Tithing Gross or Net: A Biblical Review

  1. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Proverbs 3:9 (KJV) “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:”

    The verse reads HONOUR the Lord with thy substance (wealth), not give to the Lord your wealth. The verse does not say honour the Lord with a tenth of your wealth, or give to the Lord a tenth of your wealth.

    How does one honor the Lord with their wealth? I believe the best way I can honor the Lord with my wealth is to be a good steward of that wealth and use it to glorify the Lord the best I can.

    The verse reads AND with the firstfruits of all thine increase. In other words, HONOUR the Lord with the firstfruits of all your produce, or crops (Hebrew word definition). Doesn’t say give to the Lord the firstfruits of your produce, or crops. That comes later in the Word.

    For those who say that all thine increase can also mean all your income, read the next verse:

    Proverbs 3:10 (KJV) “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”

    Verse 10 makes it clear that increase in verse 9 is referring to the crops and not income.

    Leviticus 23:10 (KJV) “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:”

    The above verse tells us that the Children of Israel were commanded to take the firstfruits of their harvest to the priests.

    Numbers 18:21 (KJV) “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

    The above verse tells us that the Children of Israel were commanded to take the tithe to the Levites.

    Nehemiah 10:37 (KJV) “And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.”

    Nehemiah 10:37 confirms that the firstfruits were taken to the Temple for the priests, and the tithe was taken to the Levites who lived in the Levitical cities.

    To apply this to one’s income, or to money, is nothing but manipulating God’s Word.

  2. Jon Kokko

    September 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Wow – so you get to escape tithing because you’re not a farmer? Your substance is everything you own (or come into) and that applies to money. You can work as a farmer for vegetables or you can work in an office for cash. Either way your substance has increased. But to define it even further, your substance can be spent according to the parable of the prodigal son:

    Luk 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
    Luk 15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
    Luk 15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want

    You don’t get to selectively choose what your substance is. For the vast majority of people in centuries past, that was raw goods because they didn’t have cash money. But, according to what your saying, if you have money you have no obligation, but if you buy something (food included) you need to honor the Lord with that increase.

    And the term “First Fruits”, that’s a direct reference for giving…

  3. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    You don’t understand the Biblical tithe.

    When God gave the Israelites the promised land, He RESERVED, for Himself, a tenth of the crops and every tenth animal. They NEVER did belong to the Israelites. In other words, the tithe was from God’s increase of FOOD, not from man’s income. It was a way to distribute FOOD to the Levites and priests who did NOT inherit any land.

    No one, not even the farmers, tithed from their income.

    The farmers made their income by SELLING and/or barter-exchanging their crops and animals but did NOT tithe on that income.

    Today, ALL born-again believers are priests. ALL of us are called to be deciples of the Lord. No one of us is greater than another. Our bodies are the Temple where the Spirit dwells. According to the scriptures, priests do not tithe.

    When you understand the Biblical tithe, it makes sense, and it is plain to see that it makes NO sense to try to tithe today.

  4. Jon Kokko

    September 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    You are correct in the sense that “tithing” is a Levitical ordinance. However, Proverbs is not expounding upon a Levitical ordinance nor was the offerings by Cain or the tithe by Abram a Levitical ordinance. Those things all exist apart from the ordinances which were done away with.

  5. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    There is no scripture indicating that either Cain or Able ever tithed. They gave offerings, not a tenth.

    Let’s look closely at Abram’s tithe. First, the goods that Abram gave the tenth from didn’t even belong to Abram:

    Genesis 14:21 (KJV) – And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

    Notice in verse 21 the king of Sodom didn’t ask Abram if he would give back to him the people, but rather said GIVE ME the people and keep the goods for yourself. The way that is worded indicates that the king of Sodom was claiming that the people and the goods belonged to him, but he offered the goods to Abram.

    It would normally have been the custom that the victor owns the spoils, but normally the spoils would have belonged to the enemy. In this case, Abram was RECOVERING goods belonging to the King of Sodom.

    NOTE: The king of Sodom had an original right both to the persons and to the goods, and it would bear a debate whether Abram’s acquired right by rescue would supersede his title and extinguish it; but, to prevent all quarrels, the king of Sodom makes this fair proposal (v. 21).
    –Should the Church Teach Tithing by Dr. Russell Earl Kelly, pages 24-25

    Genesis 14:22-24 (KJV)
    22And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
    23That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
    24Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

    Notice in verses 23 and 24 Abram also acknowledges that the goods belonged to the king of Sodom. But the king of Sodam offered that Abram could keep the goods for himself. Abram declined the offer. He didn’t want man to take credit for his wealth. By not accepting any of the goods for himself, Abram was putting all his faith in God to provide for him rather than man.

    Therefore, it is clear that both the king of Sodom and Abram acknowledged that the spoils of war did NOT belong to Abram, yet he gave a tenth of the spoils to King Melchizedek. This would seem that Abram did something wrong, if not even illegal, but Biblical historians agree that it was custom in Abram’s day to give the king a tenth of the war spoils. Had Abram not given the tenth, he would have gone against custom.

    Conclusion: Abram did NOT give a tenth of his income, or his wealth. Abram gave a tenth of the spoils of war that didn’t belong to him and declined to keep the goods offered to him. That is NOT an example of tithing for Christians to follow today. By declining to keep any of the goods for himself, Abram showed his faith that God would provide. That is the example of faith that Christians should be following. Furthermore, the law did NOT require a tenth of war spoils to be given, so to say that tithing was before the law and then in the law is not true. What Abram did was NOT even codified into the later law.

  6. Jon Kokko

    September 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    First, the goods that Abram gave the tenth from didn’t even belong to Abram

    Wow. Brother, indeed they DID belong to Abram. They belonged to Abram as a right. They were the spoils of war. If they weren’t then you’re stating that Abram gave away a tenth of what didn’t belong to him.

  7. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Did you read what I wrote?? Biblical historians say it was CUSTOM to give a tenth of the spoils to the king.

    If you say the good did NOT belong to Abram, then you are saying Abram lied when he said “… I will not take any thing that is thine …”

    But even if the goods did belong to Abram, there is NO scripture showing that Abram ever tithed before that one-time recorded event, or after that one-time recorded event. There is no scripture showing that Abram/Abraham ever tithed FROM HIS INCOME.

    This is nothing but manipulation to try and justify tithing today.

    The New Testament teaches generous, sacrificial giving, from the heart, according to our means. For some, $1 might be a sacrifice, while for others, even giving 50% of their income might not induce a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, ONLY the farmers tithed, and it was a tenth. The New Testament teaches the principle of equal sacrifice instead of a tenth. Equal sacrifice is much harder to achieve, if not impossible, than giving a tenth.

  8. Jon Kokko

    September 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Abram gave it back because he was being honorable. He wouldnt offer what wasn’t his just as King David bought the threshing floor with his own money. Where else in scripture do you see nomadic tribesmen giving a tenth away?

    No matter how you word the account, Proverbs is clear on the giving of your first fruits. Gentile Christians don’t get the luxury of working off that passage as just for Jews or else you can erase the whole book as for just Jews.

  9. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    You can rationalize it all you want. Firstfruits is referring to the FIRST OF THE CROP. Not income. Not money.

    ONLY farmers gave the firstfruits, NOT wage earners.

    Yes, Proverbs 3:9-10 is VERY CLEAR. But you want to take it out of context and apply it where it was never meant to be applied.

    Furthermore, firstfruits is NOT a tenth, so has NOTHING to do with tithing.

    Proverbs 3:9 (KJV) “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:”

    2 Timothy 2:6 (KJV) “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”

  10. Jon Kokko

    September 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    if I take a portIon of my crop and tithe it or I sell it and offer it, mathematically, it’s still the same.

    It’s not escapable because your not a Jewish farmer. The precept still applies. You receive the fruit of your labors….honor God with the first of it.

  11. Gary Arnold

    September 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Why is it that ONLY the farmers tithed? No one else tithed. Carpenters did not tithe. Fishermen did not tithe. Tent makers did not tithe. The farm workers (other than the owner) did not tithe.

    You don’t seem to understand that the tithe NEVER came from anyone’s income. It came ONLY from God’s miraculous increase of FOOD from crops and animals. NOTHING ELSE.

    You miss the whole point of the Biblical tithe. It had NOTHING to do with man or what man earned. It had ONLY to do with God.
    Nowhere in the scriptures is a tenth associated with first fruits. So just how much was given as a first fruit offering?

    Leviticus 23:10 (KJV) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

    The first-fruit was a very small amount of the first crop harvest and was small enough to fit into a hand-held basket (Deut. 26:1-4).

    A sheaf – not ten percent.

    So when you take Proverbs 3:9 out of context and apply it to someone’s income, just how much would the first fruits be? Maybe two or three dollars from the first paycheck each year would qualify. You see, it just doesn’t work when you try to apply first fruits to income.
    CORRECTION: The TITLE of this blog…
    The tithe of this blog is “Tithing Gross or Net.”

    According to the scriptures, Abram tithed on the NET, not the gross, and the Biblical tithes also came from the NET crops and NET increase in animals. The tithe NEVER came from the gross.

    If you need scripture for me to prove it, I have it.

  12. Jon Kokko

    September 13, 2012 at 7:09 am

    #1 – It was *NOT* only farmers that tithed. It was everyone:

    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them; This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, saying, What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people: To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, and offer them for peace offerings unto the LORD. (Lev 17:1-5)

    If you killed it – you donated a portion of it. It was a mandatory offering.

    Additionally, First Fruit offerings included MORE than just raw animal and/or vegetables:

    Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. (Lev 23:17)

    Two loaves?? You mean you had to take the wheat, grind it and bake it and THEN offer it?! Additionally Nehemiah 10 that you quoted in your first post includes wood, dough, wine and oil! Everybody had something to tithe to the priests. You don’t grow oil. You may grow the olives to press but you WORK more to get the oil just like you work to get your paycheck. You have “first fruits” whether or not you admit it.

    Proverbs 3:7-8 Apply LITERALLY to everyone:

    Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. (Pro 3:7-8)

    Proverbs 3:11-12 Apply LITERALLY to everyone:

    My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (Pro 3:11-12)

    You can’t take the verses in between and make them any less so:

    Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Pro 3:9-10)

    Your barn may be a bank but the meaning of the passage remains. You can theoretically argue out of the concept of a “tenth” but nulling it out altogether is unfounded.