How much people gave in the Old Testament is hazy. Most people say 10 percent. That's true for starters, because in the Old Testament there were several types of mandatory giving. There was compulsory giving for each person who considered himself faithful to the Covenant; it was not optional. First there was a tithe called the Lord's tithe, or the Levites' tithe, because it went to support the priests and the ministry in the tabernacle and the temple. Leviticus 27:30 stipulates a tenth of everything from the land—whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees—belonged to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord. Ten percent of all their produce and animals was also required. A man who did not comply was considered to be disobeying the law and robbing God. Malachi 3:8 says, "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. You ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings." Then there was a second tithe called the festival tithe. Deuteronomy 12:10-11 says, "You will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. And he will give you the rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, you are to bring everything I command you—your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes," that is your tenths and special gifts, "and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord." And that festival tithe was to be used for religious celebration, to bring family and friends together. So you have two compulsory ten percent tithes. You're up to 20 percent. There was yet another tithe termed the poor tithe. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 says, "At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns so that the Levites, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied; so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." He says every three years there is to be a ten percent tithe for helping people in poverty. That breaks down to about three percent per year. This means mandatory tithes for faithful Israelites were 23 percent of their income annually—a tithe for the priesthood, a tithe for national religious feasts, and a tithe that aided the poor—all compulsory. It didn't end there. There was a mandatory type of profit sharing with the poor. Leviticus 19:9-10 says, "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them to the poor and alien. I am the Lord your God." It was not a large amount, perhaps one or two percent, but that was to be left. You were to be generous with what was left in your field. There were other requirements. For example, there was a third-of-a-shekel temple charge required to pay for materials for temple worship. All in all, a faithful Israelite was required to give between 23 and 25 percent of his income per year. That was mandatory. Then came volunteer, free-will giving—grace-giving we call it—which included first-fruits giving and free-will offerings. An Israelite who loved the Lord, in addition to his 23 to 25 percent, would give the first fruits of his crop to God. He would survey his fields for the best part of it. He would harvest it and take the best part to the Lord, before the harvest, trusting that God would multiply his harvest. So it was faith giving—it was entirely voluntary. Finally, there were free-will offerings given for special projects such as building the tabernacle. The Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering from each man whose heart prompts him to give." It's not mandatory. It comes from the heart. The entire emphasis is free will, joyous, over and above the 23 to 25 percent. The ideal in the Old Testament was grace giving, whether it was mandatory or voluntary. It was to come from the heart. It was meant to be offered to God with great rejoicing. Some were giving 30 percent. Some were giving 40 percent. It was huge. That is the Old Covenant.

source: Kent Hughes, Preaching Today #205, "The Grace of Giving" tags: Money, Giving, Tithing