There is no basis in the Mosaic Law for the practice of tithing 10% of our total annual income to the local church. The only commands about tithing in Scripture are for the people of Israel, and they are to tithe 10% to their own family for two years, and then in the third year, give 10% to the Levitical Priests and the community poor.
As followers of Jesus, we are not under the Law of Moses, and do not need to follow it as the people of Israel did. Nevertheless, we can look to the Law of Moses for principles and ideas on how God might want us to live our lives today.
If we wanted to draw some principles from the Mosaic Law about tithing for our practice today, we could say that families should put aside a portion of their income every year to enjoy life by participating in special festivals and feasts with their family. Every third year, some funds can also go to support a ministry of our choosing, and for taking care of the poor, the orphans, and the widows in our community.
If we were going to try to follow closely the Mosaic Law about tithing, a family’s budget might look like this:
Year 1: 10% for Family Celebration
Year 2: 10% for Family Celebration
Year 3: 10% for Ministry Support and Loving Others
Technically, they went through this cycle twice, and then in the seventh year, gave the land a “rest” so that there was no planting or harvesting, and therefore, no tithing from the crops. I doubt that anyone today is able to take every seventh year off from work, but that also was part of the cycle of God’s economy for Israel. Every fiftieth year, they would have a huge party for a year, would cancel all debts, and all land would revert to the original owner, but again, I doubt most people would want to practice this part of God’s economic plan either. But that three-year cycle is something that many families could and should implement.
This may mean spending less on ourselves!
Now that I have recommended using 10% of your income for family celebrations, let me offer a word of caution. I am not recommending an additional 10% over what you are already spending. In modern Western Civilization, we suffer from something which almost nobody else in the history of the world has suffered from: materialistic abundance.
The reason for the 10% tithe for a family celebration is because families didn’t normally have the time or the money to do such things. Living in an agrarian society, most Israelites worked from sun-up to sun-down, six days a week, taking only the Sabbath (Saturday) off as a day of rest. All this work barely provided enough food to feed the family. So saving 10% of their income for a special family celebration was something unique and exciting.
Today, however, most of us work much less, and spend much more than 10% a year on fun and feasting. We go out to eat in restaurants and gorge ourselves on a weekly basis. We take family trips a few times a year. I would not be too surprised if some families are spending way more than 10% of their income and feasting and family celebrations.
If you take everything you spend on eating out, going to movies, taking trips, and “enjoying life” and it comes to more than 10% of your annual income, you might actually want to cut back on the amount of money you are “tithing” to your family, and spend more on loving and serving others, helping the poor, taking care of orphans and widows, and showing others the love of Jesus. This truly is the tithe that matters to God (cf. Isa 58:6-9).