If you’ve attended church even once in your life, you’ve probably heard the phrase tithes and offerings.
It’s often printed in the bulletin, or the pastor talks about it as the ushers pass the collection plates. “Tithes and offerings” is often treated as one type of giving.
But is there a difference between tithes and offerings? Yep! And as the giver of those tithes and offerings, you should know how to tell them apart.
- The tithe is the first 10 percent of your income that God calls you to give to your local church each month.
- An offering is any money you choose to give above and beyond the tithe.
Let’s look at each one closely.
The Firstfruits of All Your Increase
Proverbs 3:9 calls us to honor God with the first and the best of our earnings—the firstfruits. At this time, Solomon was speaking to a society of farmers, so most people’s “income” came from the crops they grew or animals they raised. Today, we measure our increase in dollars, not donkeys. But the principle still applies: God calls us to bring Him the first of our earnings. Specifically, the first tenth.
"Tithing is really a form of worship."
So the tithe, which means “tenth,” is a baseline for giving—the bare minimum. It’s a tenth of your monthly income, and it goes specifically to your local church (Malachi 3:10). It’s the first thing you do when you budget your money—before you pay down debt, make a mortgage payment, or fill your car with gas.
Tithing is really a form of worship, because it shows God we trust Him (not money) to provide for us.
Giving Freely and Cheerfully
Offerings are different. They’re given above and beyond the tithe. The Bible doesn’t command us to give offerings, but it does encourage us to give generously, and offerings—since they aren’t required—reflect the generosity in our hearts.
Here’s the thing about offerings: Unlike tithes, which come out of your budget before anything else, offerings should be given only when you have the financial margin to do so. That means you tithe first and then take care of your own household: your bills, your debt payments, your housing costs, groceries, transportation, and clothing.
After all that is done, and you feel called to give an offering beyond the tithe, feel free!
"God loves a cheerful giver."
Now, someone who’s debt-free with lots of extra income every month might not give much beyond the tithe. They can, but they choose not to. That’s where offerings become a heart issue. God wants us to give with open hands and hearts, to be as generous as we can within our circumstances.
In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Now, you have a lot more freedom as to where you can give your offering than you do with your tithe. Tithes must go to your local church, but offerings can really go anywhere—to your church, to a parachurch organization or even to a charity with a cause you believe in.
The Bottom Line
Tithes and offerings are different, but they do have one big thing in common: They both work to build your trust in God as your ultimate Provider and decrease your dependence on money. After all, Matthew 6:24 (ESV) tells us, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
And if you’re not giving at all? There’s no time like the present to start!