To tithe means to give a tenth. One reads about tithing early in the Bible; Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils he had taken in war to the priestly king, Melchizedek, (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4). Also, after seeing a vision of angels and receiving a blessing from God, Jacob promised that he would give back to God a tenth of all that the Lord would give to him (Genesis 28:22). While we have these examples of tithing, we have no recorded command from God to tithe during this early period of history.
Later in history, Israel was commanded to tithe. Tithing was a part of the law God gave to Israel. Moses wrote: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy unto the LORD...And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD (Leviticus 27:30,32). We learn elsewhere that this tithe was for the Levites. "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 18:21). Moses also instructed Israel: "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always... At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest" (Deuteronomy 14:22,23,27,28).
From the commands recorded in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, some have suggested that Israel had three different tithes- the first was given to the Levites, the second was eaten by Israel in Jerusalem, and the third was given once every three years, stored within their own gates, and given to the Levites, strangers, widows and fatherless. Others suggest two different tithes; one for the Levites and a second eaten by Israel in Jerusalem the first two years but stored within their own gates the third year. Still others suggest that Israel gave only one tithe which was given entirely to the Levites before entering the promised land (Numbers 18:21). Then, after entering the promised land, (Deuteronomy 12:1) it was eaten by Israel in Jerusalem for two years, but stored the third year to provide for the Levites, the strangers, the widows, and the fatherless. However many tithes one may determine Israel was to give, one fact remains clear- Israel was commanded to tithe as a part of the Law of Moses.
It was a serious offense for Israel to neglect tithing. The prophet, Malachi expressed God's displeasure with Israel for not tithing when he said, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." He then told them, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse..." (Malachi 1:8,10).
We must remember, however, that the law of Moses, the law that commanded Israel to tithe, was 1) given only to Israel (Leviticus 27:34), and 2) that Jesus "blotted out" the law of Moses which contained the commandment to tithe, "nailing it to his cross" (Colossians 2:14). Today, God speaks not just to Israel, but to everyone through Christ and the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1,2; 2:2,3). Israel is no longer God's chosen people, but the church which is made up of Jews and Gentiles is God's chosen people (Ephesians 2:11-16). In the New Testament God has required neither those out of the church nor those in the church to tithe. There is no New Testament commandment requiring man to give a tenth to God.
To say that the New Testament does not teach us to tithe does not mean that the Lord does not want us to give to Him today. God still teaches that we should give of our means, but He does not specify a certain percentage such as a tenth. Instead, we are taught in the New Testament: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him..." (1 Corinthians 16:2), and "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). A careful study of these and other passages shows that this money was given to a church that it might carry on the Lord's work of preaching the gospel and helping needy saints (2 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2). Today, God requires that we give as we have prospered and out of love for Him and for His cause.
Today, we are not commanded to tithe (give a tenth), but we are commanded to give to the Lord. However, it is not our money, but our hearts that God wants, and when we give our hearts, it will show in our giving (Mark 12:41-44; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).