Glossary: Tithing

Image Courtesy of The Montrealer

Image Courtesy of The Montrealer

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “to tithe” means “to pay or give a tenth part of one’s income especially for the church.” The practice of tithing originates from the Hebrew scriptures and became part of Western Christian practices. While today it is mostly a voluntary contribution, certain churches make it a requirement for their members to tithe.

This old notion of tithing is not only about the money, but about giving back to the community through a religious organization. Today the church is not necessarily thought of as a charitable organization that helps people in need, but a powerful religious institution. Where would the tithe then be allocated to? Devout Christians belonging to a church might be interested in giving a tenth to their religious community, but for less religious people, this does not seem to be an option.

In the past not as many charitable organizations existed as today and the church did much of the work that the government and nonprofit organizations do now. For that reason it made sense that a tenth of a person’s income would be contributed to the church. But what if people today would give away a tenth of their earnings to make the life of other people better? Clearly this would be huge, but a tenth of one’s income is a large portion and it might not be viable for many people to give so much to charity.

On the other hand, what if each person would take one dollar out of their wallet for each every ten dollars spent? Putting money aside to give it to a charitable cause is easier to do when it doesn’t have to be all at once. Small increments can make any person a philanthropist. For example, when the Red Cross asks for donations via text messages, which can be as small as few cents, people are ready to donate and together give millions. Many people also contribute to bake sales at their children’s schools or give to causes they care about. At the same time, taxes today are a modern form of tithing and not everyone has the urge to spend more on charity.

While it would be logical to conclude that many people might not agree to give away a tenth of their income, tithing still exists today. There are people who manage to put aside a tenth of their earnings and give it to their church. This practice demonstrates that people do have a certain connection with their community and have a need to give back. But what about an atheist or other people who are not affiliate with a church? Can they tithe as well? Clearly tithing does not have to be a tenth of one’s income or limited to religious institutions, but should be seen as a way of giving back to the community. Tithing can be understood as an old notion of philanthropy. And despite taxes, it should be that people are able to contribute a part of their income to the wellbeing of their community even without the church.

By Georgine Paltzer

Leave a comment


  1. Jolene

     /  December 28, 2014

    I appreciate this post about tithing. Having grown up in the church, tithing was part of my money management learning. As a professional working in nonprofits today, I still tithe at least 10% of my income regularly. As the author above mentions, there are many ways to tithe beside giving the full amount to the church. Personally, I have chosen to split my tithe amount between five of nonprofit organizations that I want to support.


  2. Marilyn

     /  January 5, 2015

    I like the idea of giving $1 for every $10 spent, if tithing is a concept that some find difficult to accept. I think everyone can give something back to improve the lives of others who are not so fortunate–and I’m not necessarily talking about money. A person who gives enriches their own life as well as the life of others!



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