Tithing System: Types, History and Purpose


Tithing is a tradition that carries great significance in many different religious and societal contexts. It can serve as a source of financial support for a church body, a conduit for communal cohesion, an opportunity to tangibly express one’s faith and much more.

Religious tithing is rooted in ancient teachings and typically represents a posture of gratitude and stewardship toward God’s material blessings in our lives. However, beyond holding immense religious significance, traditional tithing has also influenced the evolution of societal norms and helped to shape many cultures’ attitudes toward altruism and social responsibility. 


Table of Contents 

Church Stewardship eBook

What Is a Tithe? 

A tithe is a portion of an individual’s or a household’s income that they contribute to their church or religious institution. Many churches suggest one-tenth of one’s income as an appropriate tithe, and this proportion is supported by several places in Scripture. However, attitudes toward the appropriate amount to tithe and perspectives on tithing differ by belief system and individual church, and many churches simply recommend you give whatever you are able. 

The concept of tithing is found in many religious teachings, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and more. It’s generally intended to be a means of supporting a religious community’s material needs, such as maintaining facilities, paying church leaders’ salaries and carrying out the church’s mission in general. In some cases, tithing may be considered a religious obligation for church members, while in others it is simply encouraged as a way to demonstrate one’s faithfulness and give back to the church. 

Remember — tithing isn’t something we do because God needs our money. It’s a freewill offering, something we do for our own benefit, as a tangible way to both contribute to our church communities and demonstrate our faith. 


History of Tithing

What Are the Origins of Tithing?

Tithing’s origins are ancient, and the evolution of the practice spans many different cultures and religious traditions. Some of the earliest recorded instances of tithing occurred in the ancient Near East, where Mesopotamian and Egyptian societies levied tithes as a form of taxation to support temples and religious activities. 

This ancient tradition then extended into Jewish culture, where tithing evolved to include provisions for the poor and for religious festivals. Later, the practice of tithing was adopted by early Christian communities that were influenced by Jewish teachings. Jesus references tithing in the New Testament, where he affirms its importance and emphasizes its underlying principles of justice and mercy. 

In the Islamic tradition, tithing takes the form of “zakat,” and is considered mandatory for all Muslims as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Tithes typically go toward supporting community members in need. 

Tithing in the Old Testament 

In the Hebrew Bible, the Torah (also the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch) mandates the collection of tithes as a religious duty for the Israelites. It describes tithing as giving one-tenth of one’s income to support the priesthood and religious institutions in various ways. 

A few specific types of tithes are mentioned in the Torah. Here are a few of the most important ones: 

1. The Levitical, or Sacred, Tithe (Numbers 18: 21, 24)

The Levitical, or sacred tithe, as described in Numbers 18:21 and 24, was intended to support the Levites, who were the priestly tribe of Israel. According to God’s instructions in these verses, the Levites were not allocated a portion of land like the other tribes; rather, they were designated to serve in the temple or tabernacle, performing various religious duties on behalf of the community. 

The Levitical law of tithing required the Israelites to give a tithe (the translation of tithe literally means a one-tenth portion) of their agricultural produce, such as grains, fruits and livestock, to the Levites as compensation for their service to the community and their lack of inheritance in the Promised Land. This tithe served as the principal form of income for the Levites and their families and was essential for ensuring their sustenance. 

The Levites themselves were instructed to give an additional tithe of the tithes they received to the high priest, Aaron, as a contribution to the priesthood. 


2. The Tithe of the Feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27)

The Tithe of the Feasts is described in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. It was practiced by the Israelites during certain religious festivals or feasts. According to God’s instructions in these verses, the Israelites were required to set aside a portion of their agricultural produce and livestock, in addition to other types of offerings, for these specific celebratory occasions. 

Three times each year — during Passover, the Festival of Weeks (also known as Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles — the Israelites were instructed by God to bring what they had set aside to the central sanctuary, which would eventually become the Temple in Jerusalem. The Tithe of the Feasts was intended to be consumed and enjoyed in an act of communal feasting and celebration, both to reinforce the Israelites' sense of community and to serve as an expression of their gratitude toward God for His blessings and deliverance. 


3. The Tithe for the Poor (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29)

The Tithe for the Poor, as outlined in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, required the Israelites to set aside a specific tithe every third year for the benefit of the poor, orphans, widows and others in the community who could not provide for themselves. 

According to God’s instructions in Deuteronomy, the Israelites were to give a tithe of their produce every third year to be shared with those who had no inheritance or means of supporting themselves. This included the Levites, who despite receiving the Levitical Tithe as well, were still considered vulnerable members of society without means of providing for themselves. 

By setting aside a portion of their resources for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable, the Israelites demonstrated their commitment to justice and their recognition of God's concern for the marginalized and oppressed. The Tithe for the Poor also served as a tangible expression of the Israelites' covenantal obligation to show compassion toward those in need. 

How Has Tithing Evolved from Ancient Times to Today?

Tithing law and practices have evolved quite a bit since the time of the biblical Israelites. While tithing in ancient times was often mandatory and enforced by religious authorities, today it’s frequently seen as a personal choice based on individuals’ feelings about tithings rather than a religious duty. Additionally, ancient tithing primarily involved donating a share of household livestock or agricultural produce. As societies transitioned away from agrarian economies and toward cash-based ones, the focus of tithing shifted from agricultural to monetary offerings. 


Throughout history, tithing practices have adapted to countless changes in religious doctrines, cultural norms, economic structures and more. In the Christian tradition, tithing has evolved from a mandatory practice to a voluntary expression of one’s faith and devotion (though it’s still heavily encouraged by most Christian churches). Similar to many of the original tithing practices described in the Old Testament, modern tithing practices typically involve giving a percentage of one’s income to support the various needs of the church community. 

In some cases, modern guidelines for tithing have even expanded beyond religious contexts. Many secular movements promote the idea of giving back to the community through charitable donations or by volunteering one’s time. While specific tithing practices have changed substantially over time, tithing’s core principles of generosity and communal support have permeated many different cultures throughout history in similar ways. 


Types of Tithing Systems

There is more than one “right” way to tithe. Many different cultures and belief systems have practiced differing forms of tithing across a wide range of time periods. Even within single belief systems, ideas about tithing can vary significantly from church to church. 

Traditional Percentage-Based Tithing 

Percentage-based payment of tithes involves giving one-tenth, or 10 percent, of your income to your church or other religious institution to help support its financial obligations and needs. This tithe may be mandatory or voluntary depending on the specific institution and belief system. 

There is some debate among tithers about whether the traditional 10 percent tithe should be based on one’s gross income (income before taxes and deductions) or net income (income after taxes and deductions). Those in favor of calculating the tithe based on gross income typically argue that the higher monetary amount reflects a higher level of commitment and trust in God’s provision, while those who favor the net income approach tend to point out that net income is a more practical measure of how much money one has available to give. 

Voluntary Contribution Tithing

There are still others who do not interpret the traditional “one-tenth” tithe as a literal 10 percent at all but believe that each individual or household should tithe what they can afford or feel called to give. This is known as a voluntary contribution tithing system. This approach allows for greater flexibility and acknowledges that financial circumstances are different for every individual or family. 

There are also non-traditional voluntary tithing systems that accept other forms of giving instead of financial contributions. For example, church members might volunteer their time and talents for free to support the church’s needs or participate in fundraising events that benefit the church's causes. 

Regardless of the specific percentage or form of tithe, most religious traditions emphasize the importance of intent. That you tithe with a joyful heart, out of a sense of genuine gratitude and generosity, is often appreciated more than the specific amount. 


Why Should I Tithe?

Tithing, from a spiritual and scriptural perspective, is rooted in principles of faith, stewardship and generosity. While specific reasons for tithing vary across different religious traditions, we can also find some common themes. 


1. Scriptural Basis

Tithing is a biblical teaching that’s mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, God commands the Israelites to tithe as a form of religious duty. The New Testament does not contain clear commands for how we are to tithe, but Jesus affirms the practice of tithing and emphasizes the importance of giving generously and with a cheerful heart in numerous verses (Matthew 23:23, 2 Corinthians 9:7). 

2. Spiritual Obedience

Tithing is frequently viewed as an act of obedience and worship. It’s a way for individuals to acknowledge God as the ultimate provider and sustainer in their lives. By giving a portion of your resources back to God, you demonstrate your trust in God's provision and reaffirm your commitment to honoring Him with your finances. 

3. Church Support

Tithing is also an essential form of support for the mission and operations of your church or other religious institution. Consistency of tithes are crucial for paying clergy salaries, funding building maintenance and facilitating the services and events that benefit the whole church congregation. 

4. Community Benefit

Tithing also makes it possible for churches to engage in many kinds of outreach that benefit the wider community. This might include donating resources to (or even opening) much-needed institutions like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, counseling centers, educational programs and other venues of social support. 

5. Personal Growth

Tithing isn’t just about giving to others — it’s also a way to experience personal spiritual growth. Many people testify to the fulfillment that comes from giving generously and seeing the impact their contributions make in the lives of others. Tithing regularly helps to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and generosity that will not only enrich your relationship with God but also enhance your personal sense of purpose in life. 


Integrating Modern Tithing Solutions

Tithing has come a long way since ancient civilizations. Today, many churches rely on digital tools to make the tithing process more convenient for both congregants and church leaders. These modern solutions take many different forms, such as: 

For example, Vanco’s suite of digital giving tools for churches includes online giving options, a free mobile app, text-to-give capabilities, a mobile card reader and more. 


What Are Digital Tithing Solutions? 

Digital tithing solutions are an exciting development in the evolution of tithing. Digital tithing systems use modern technology to streamline the giving process to make it more convenient, accessible and engaging for church members. Adopting digital tithing solutions makes it possible for church leaders to adapt to changing times and significantly expand the audiences they reach. 

What Are the Benefits of Digital Tithing Systems?

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the key advantages of digital tithing systems. 


Convenience and Accessibility

Digital tithing solutions make giving more convenient and accessible for everyone. With digital tithing systems like Vanco, church members can tithe anytime, anywhere, using their phones, computers or other devices — even when they can’t make it to church in person. Adding more flexibility to your tithing process is a great way to keep people involved in the church’s work. 


Digital Security

The best digital tithing solutions take security very seriously. They employ cutting-edge digital security techniques like strong encryption and secure payment methods to keep fraudsters at bay and give your donors peace of mind. 


Increased Engagement

Digital tithing platforms are designed to encourage more giving. For example, they prioritize user-friendliness to make it as easy and straightforward as possible for congregants to tithe using their preferred digital payment option. Plus, many of the best digital tithing systems include extra features like recurring donations or the option to track giving histories. With convenient features like these, church members are more likely to contribute regularly to the church’s needs. 

How to Implement a Digital Tithing System

Implementing a digital tithing system is attainable for any church, but it requires careful planning and execution. To make sure your implementation process goes as smoothly as possible, there are a few factors to keep in mind. 

First and foremost, you should conduct a thorough needs assessment at your religious institution. Consider the size of your congregation, your existing technological infrastructure, budgetary constraints and your must-have features for your church’s digital tithing solution. Usually, some of the most important features to look for include: 

  • Ease of use 
  • Security 
  • Customer support 
  • Compatibility with existing church management software systems 
  • Pricing options 

Next, research different digital tithing solutions and select the one that best aligns with the needs and constraints you’ve established. 

It’s also essential to provide comprehensive training and education for your church staff and any volunteers who will be involved with donations. Ensure everyone is familiar with the new digital tithing system so they can use it effectively and help congregants with questions or concerns. 

Likewise, communicate with your congregation in advance about the upcoming digital tithing system implementation. Use the various channels at your disposal, such as announcements during services, the church newsletter, church social media accounts and/or the church website to educate your members about how to use the system and how it will benefit them. 

Bonus: Tips to Increase Tithing at Your Church

Here are a few bonus tips to help you increase giving at your church. 

1. Lead by Example

When church leaders actively participate in tithing and stewardship, it sets a powerful example for congregants to follow. Make sure the leadership in your church is donating to church causes just as generously as members are asked to donate. 

2. Provide Lots of Giving Opportunities

Give your congregants plenty of chances to donate. When you use a digital giving solution like Vanco, churchgoers can tithe whenever it's most convenient for them, even if they aren’t at a church service in person. Combining traditional tithing opportunities with the flexibility of digital tithing is a great way to boost the frequency of donations at your church. 

3. Get Your Congregation Excited About Church Projects

Finding ways to generate excitement among your congregants about the projects their tithes support is a good way to encourage them to give more generously. Make sure you’re clearly communicating the vision, goals and expected impact of these projects to church members when you ask for donations. 

4. Say “Thank You”

As is often the case in life, a simple “thank you” can go a long way. Be sure to acknowledge donations from members of your church community with personalized thank-you notes or public recognition at church services. When you go out of your way to make your congregation feel appreciated, they're more likely to feel that their donations are important and continue giving. 

For more church giving tips like these, check out our complete list of strategies to increase tithing at your church. 


Unlock the Secret to Successful Stewardship: An Unmissable Guide for Every Church Leader


The topic of money and giving money to the church can be tricky terrain for church leaders. Yet at its core, stewardship is about empowerment, community and growth. With this perspective, we've developed an eBook that reframes this delicate conversation into an empowering discourse. 

Our guide will… 

  1. Help you tap into your congregation’s natural desire to contribute. 
  2. Reveal eight fundamental rules of financial stewardship. 
  3. Showcase 11 untapped revenue sources that could catalyze your church's financial health.  
  4. Detail a foolproof blueprint of 17 key elements to design the perfect stewardship plan. 

Transform the way you approach stewardship and unleash the power of giving with our breakthrough eBook. 

Get the eBook



Tithing is a long-standing religious practice rooted in principles of faith, stewardship and generosity. While specifics may vary across different religious traditions, tithing serves as a means of supporting the church’s work in communities throughout many different cultures and belief systems. 

As tithing continues to evolve and adapt to modern society, digital tithing solutions can help your church stay on the cutting edge. By embracing innovative giving strategies that use digital tithing systems, churches like yours can encourage donations and empower congregants to support the church’s mission more effectively. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Is tithing mandatory in Catholic and Christian churches?

Tithing is not mandatory in all types of Christian churches, and Christian teaching and beliefs regarding whether tithing is compulsory or voluntary actually vary widely between different branches and denominations. Whether it’s a Protestant church or Catholic church, some Christian churches require members to tithe and some simply encourage it. 

How are tithes used in the church?

How tithes are used is ultimately up to each individual religious institution. Usually, churches allocate tithes toward funding church employees’ salaries, church maintenance, church missions and outreach programs in the community. 

What if I can't afford to tithe the traditional 10 percent? 

If you can't afford to tithe the traditional 10 percent tithe, consider giving whatever you can afford with a cheerful heart. Many churches encourage members to give according to their means rather than a fixed percentage. 

How does tithing relate to other forms of Christian giving?

Christian tithing is just one way to give money to churches among many. Other forms of giving include offerings, sacrificial giving and acts of charity or service. Each form of giving is valued for its role in supporting the ministry of the church and reflecting an attitude of stewardship in its own, important way. 

How can the church adapt its tithing systems to be more inclusive and accessible to diverse members? 

It’s important for churches to find ways to make their tithing systems more accessible for diverse congregations. Digital tithing solutions like online giving platforms, mobile apps, text-to-give services, electronic money transfers and more can make giving more convenient and ensure your tithing process is accessible to everyone in your church. 



Related Posts

Related Posts