Tithes: Definition & Types

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  • 0:04 Introduction to Tithes
  • 1:06 Three Types of Tithes
  • 3:00 Tithes Today
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Nearly everyone in the U.S. pays taxes to the government, but what about a tax to his church or temple? This lesson explains the purpose and types of tithes found in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Introduction to Tithes

Getting your first job is a big deal. You're becoming more independent and responsible. Not to mention, it's pretty great to have some extra cash in your pocket! After working for a few weeks, you're ready for your first paycheck, but when you open it, it's not what you were expecting! A portion of your hard-earned money appears to be missing. In the United States, employees are required to pay federal, state, and local taxes. As a result, your paycheck is much smaller than the actual amount of money you earned.

Historically, taxes aren't really a new thing. In fact, they've been around for thousands of years. Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Hebrews paid a very special type of tax, but not to a government. Instead, they put aside one-tenth (or 10%) of their income to give back to God. This payment is referred to as a tithe. For some religions, tithes are mandatory, meaning people are required to contribute a specific amount of their income. Otherwise, people are encouraged to give offerings, or voluntary amounts of money to support the work of God.

Three Types of Tithes

The Old Testament, which is the first half of the Bible written before the birth of Jesus Christ that focuses on the Jewish myth, describes three different types of tithes that the Jewish people were expected to pay:

  • Levitical or sacred tithe
  • Feast tithe
  • Poor tithe

Levitical or Sacred Tithe

The Levitical tithe was the most important of the three tithes. It's first found in Leviticus, a book in the Old Testament. According to Leviticus, God not only created everything on Earth, but he also technically owned it. He just let the Hebrew people use what he'd made. In exchange for this 'loan,' the Hebrew people were expected to give back 10% of their earnings to help support the people who did God's work, namely a tribe of Hebrews called the Levites. The Levites helped Jewish priests spread the word of God and perform various ceremonies.

The Levitical tithe was considered a contract with God. If people refused to pay their tithe, then they're actually stealing from God himself (a big no-no!). Levitical tithes could not be used for any personal gain.

Feast Tithe

The feast tithe, like the Levitical tithe, was also 10% of a person's yearly income. Instead of going directly back to God, the feast tithe was used by the person who actually earned it. According to Deuteronomy, which is another Old Testament book, the Jewish people were required to go to Jerusalem for various religious festivals and activities. The feast tithe was a way for people to put money aside so they could afford to take the trip to Jerusalem, then enjoy all of the festivities once they got there.

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