Thought for Today
Jul. 13


The Difference Between Tithes and Offerings

Tithes and offerings are mentioned separately throughout the Bible, and the Lord required both to be brought to Him. The tithe is the tenth of all the increase that God gives to us. What does "increase" include? "Increase" is everything that increases the value of earthly possessions that God places into our trust, whether it be earned income or unearned gifts. If, for one example, you own a business, your "increase" is what is called "profit". It is the gross amount of money you have earned, minus all business deductions. You figure the tithe on that amount, your net earnings, before taxes are paid to the government. God comes first. A tenth of everything that is "increase" to us belongs to God in the form of tithes. And remember, the tithe of our increase is not ours to "give" to God; it is God's for us to bring to Him.

Listen carefully to Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees, for it is very easily misunderstood: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [names of spices], and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law: judgment, mercy, and faith" (Mt. 23:23).

Those words of Jesus have at times been misconstrued to mean that Israel's religious leaders were doing wrong by bringing God tithes of all that was increase to them, even tithing the spices that came into their homes. But doing that was not what they were doing wrong, for Jesus goes on to say, "these things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Those Pharisees were evil, not because they brought to God tithes of everything that was increase to them but because they only did that, and neglected the righteousness, mercy, and truth of God.


Offerings are gifts brought to God beyond the tithe. The tithe was always ten percent of one's increase, but with many offerings, God gave His people some discretion as to the amount or number of offerings to bring. Their financial situation in life and the depth of their zeal for God determined their choices concerning offerings. Here are some of the offerings that God instituted in Israel for the people to bring to His high priest:

"Firstfruits". This was a very small offering taken from among the earliest of one's ripening crops. This offering was typically not in the form of money but was brought in from one's fields. It was a required offering, but the amount of "firstfruits" brought to God was never specified. The people had some discretion as to the amount, but to fail to bring any "firstfruits" from the ripening field was sin.

"The Firstborn". The firstborn of all female animals, clean or unclean animals, was automatically God's. "All that openeth the matrix is mine" said the LORD (Ex. 34:19). If the newborn animal belonged in the category of "unclean animals", it was not offered on God's altar, but it still was His, and it was brought to His priest to do with as he saw fit. It was sin not to bring this offering to the LORD.

The Firstborn Child. The firstborn child (son) in every family in Israel also automatically belonged to God. However, instead of bringing to the LORD's temple the firstborn child itself, the LORD required Israel to bring to Him a small amount of money for the firstborn child. It was sin not to do this.

The Census Offering. Every male was required to offer a small offering of money for himself whenever the rulers of Israel took a census. The poor could not offer less, and the rich could not offer more than that small amount (Ex. 30:14-15). A census was rarely taken in Israel, but whenever one was taken, each male was required to bring this offering to the Lord. It was sin not to do this.

The Three Feasts' Offering. Every male in Israel was required to present himself before the LORD three times each year, at the three most holy Feasts of Israel. On each of these occasions, God required a specified small offering of those males in Israel when they presented themselves before Him at His temple. It was sin not to do this.

Special Times. There were also offerings taken from the people for special occasions, such as for the erecting of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:1-9) or for the restoration of the temple during the days of Judah's king Joash (2Kgs. 12:4-12). No certain amount was specified, and if a person was unable to bring an offering on these occasions, it was not considered to be a sin. On these occasions, God's people always responded with great generosity and joy, for the children of God are the most generous people on earth. When Moses let the people of Israel know that God wanted them to bring an offering of materials for erecting a tabernacle for Him, the people brought so much that Moses had to tell them to stop (Ex. 36:5-7). Later, after the tabernacle was built and God required another offering for the dedication of it, God specified how much of an offering was to be brought by each tribe; otherwise, Moses may well have had another problem with too much being brought to the LORD!

Thanksgiving Offering. For His children who were especially happy to belong to God and have a part in His covenant, God provided a way to express their gratitude by commanding His priests to receive a Thanksgiving Offering from those among His people who wanted to bring it to God.

These are the offerings mentioned in the Bible that come to mind as I write this. There may be one or two more that I cannot recall right now. None of these offerings were considered to be "tithes"; still, all the offerings belonged to God, and it was robbery not to bring them to Him when it was time to do so.


From almost all of the sacrificial offerings on God's altar, the priests and their families were given a large portion of the animal for their food. It was their portion from God. When cattle were offered, the individual priest who actually did the work of making the sacrifice was awarded the hide of the animal as part of his pay from God. From this, we see that offerings of animals brought to be sacrificed to the LORD were part of God's system of support for His servants. As long as God's people were obedient, they were happy and blessed, and as long as they were happy and blessed, they freely brought their tithes and offerings to the LORD. And when they did that, God's priests always had more than they needed for themselves and their families.

Yes, we no longer bring animals to sacrifice to God. The physical forms that some of God's offerings took in the Old Testament no longer exist. For example, Jesus never has told his New Testament ministers to take a census of God's earthly family. But God's ministers and their families still need earthly food, clothes, and shelter, and they still use earthly money to obtain those things. For that purpose, God still has ordained His system of tithes and offerings so that His ministers can have the means to support themselves and their families.

God's system of tithes and offerings is still vital for the spiritual health of His earthly family as a whole, not just the well-being of His ministers, and I have never seen anyone with a right spirit deny that truth or fail to walk in it.