The Second Tithe: The Percentage & Frequency of our offerings
by Marcos Faiock Bomfim
Both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy suggest that it is appropriate to give offerings based on a percentage of our income (Counsels on Stewardship, p.73; Acts of the Apostles, p. 342); whenever we have an income. But what percentage shall we give? Should we give a "second tithe;" i.e. another 10 percent in addition to our tithe, each time, as offerings? Should the church impose or even suggest this to its members?
Applying the second-tithe1 principle to the system of offerings may not be the best solution for increasing the offerings received at the local church level.
Here are some reasons why applying the second-tithe1 principle to the system of offerings may not be the best solution for increasing the offerings received at the local church level.
• The use of the second tithe in the Old Testament2 was related to festivals that are no longer an obligation in the New Testament era.
• The second-tithe funds were intended to be retained and partially managed by the family for charity and religious education (Welfare Ministry, pp. 273, 274), a principle that cannot be applied to any current system of offerings.
• Even though the Bible gives implicit light favoring a proportional, or percentage-based, principle related to what we should give as offerings,3 neither the Bible nor the Spirit of Prophecy gives any explicit command regarding what that percentage should be.
• Paul says that everyone should decide how much to give according to what he/she purposes in their hearts (2 Cor. 9:7). As there is no specific percentage mentioned, each member, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, will decide the percentage they will give.
• If a percentage to be given as offerings is officially suggested by the church, but it is not biblically supported, the stewardship educational effort may be weakened as well as the church’s trustworthiness.
• Some conscientious new members, not even accustomed to tithing before their baptism, may consider the practice of a sudden 20-percent-of-income giving pattern (tithe plus another 10 percent as offerings) burdensome, something too difficult to adjust to from a budgeting perspective.
• Guilt, and finally cynicism or neglect, may be the result for those unable to reach, at once, such a proposed total of 20 percent as a giving pattern.
• The explanation in the Spirit of Prophecy of the proportion, or percentage, the Israelites were giving as offerings is descriptive of the system, but not prescriptive.4
• In the ancient theocratic Israelite period, the percentage given as offerings was even higher than simply adding a second tithe5 (another 10 percent).
• Ellen G. White says that in these last days we are called even to surpass that giving pattern established by God for Israel, which was already more than a total of 20 percent.6
• Hence, to establish 10 percent or another percentage as an ideal for offerings may limit those upon whom God may call to climb to even higher grounds of sacrifice in respect to their offering plan.
This is preferred over the practice of having only a few members following the suggestion to apply the second-tithe principle (an additional 10 percent) to offerings.
As an educative effort, therefore, it would probably be better to have more members giving offerings regularly under the percentage-based principle, beginning at any percentage according to what they will propose in their hearts (see 2 Cor. 9:7), and then grow that percentage gradually.7 This is preferred over the practice of having only a few members following the suggestion to apply the second-tithe principle (an additional 10 percent) to offerings—a practice that cannot be biblically supported.
On the other hand, each family is free to follow the second-tithe principle, or not, by applying, beyond tithes and regular offerings, an additional percentage to create a special fund to be dedicated to charity and to foster religious education in their family, as suggested by the Spirit of Prophecy.8
For further information on the principle of proportion or percentage of offerings, see what Ellen G. White says in: Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 527-528; Testimony Treasures, Vol. 1, p. 546; Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 73, 80, 81, 199, 200, 222.
1 Second tithe was an extra 10-percent portion that was beyond and different from the so-called Levitical tithe (see Lev. 27:30, 32; Num. 21:18, 24), and other kinds of offerings. It was allowed to be partially used by each Israelite family for social work and for religious education purposes (Deut. 14:22-29; 12:17-18; 26:12-14). Regarding Spirit of Prophecy counsel, see an explanation in Ellen G. White, Welfare Ministry, pp. 273-274, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 530, and Education, p. 44.
2 See Deut. 14:22-29; 12:17-18 and 26:12-14.
3 See, for instance, 2 Cor. 8:12; 1 Cor. 16:2; Ezra 2:68, 68 and Deut. 16:10, 17.
4 See Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 527, 528 and Vol 1 Testimony Treasures, p. 546.
6 See White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 528, and Counsels on Stewardship, p. 200.
7 See Counsels on Stewardship, p. 200.
8 See Welfare Ministry, pp. 273, 274, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 530, and Education, p. 44.