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Is tithe on income or profit?

Tithing is the practice of giving 10% of one’s income to the church. This practice has biblical origins and is still followed by many Christians today. However, there is some debate around whether the tithe should be calculated based on gross income or net profit. In this article, we will examine both sides of this issue.

What does the Bible say about tithing?

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to set aside a tenth of the crops they harvested and the livestock they raised as a tithe to support the Levites who worked in the temple (Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-24). The New Testament does not explicitly command tithing, but it does speak positively of the practice (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42).

Based on these biblical texts, Christians generally believe that God expects His people to return 10% of what He has given them back to the work of the church. However, the Bible does not specifically say whether the tithe should come from net income or gross income.

The case for tithing on gross income

Those who believe Christians should tithe based on their gross income make the following points:

  • The Old Testament refers to tithing agricultural products and livestock, not income. So the principle still holds – we should give 10% off the top.
  • Tithing on gross income demonstrates faith and sacrifice, since you give before taking out taxes and expenses.
  • All income ultimately comes from God, so Christians should tithe on the full amount they receive.
  • Tithing on gross income simplifies things and leaves no room for manipulating what counts as legitimate expenses.

Proponents of tithing on gross income argue it is the most faithful practice based on biblical principles. They believe Christians should demonstrate their faith in God’s provision by tithing on their income before anything else is removed from it.

The case for tithing on net income

On the other side, those who believe tithing should be based on net income make these arguments:

  • The Bible says to tithe on “increase” or production, implying profit, not just total income (Deuteronomy 14:22).
  • Tithing on profit takes into account the costs required to generate income.
  • The priests in the Old Testament ate from the tithes; they did not bear production costs.
  • Tithing on net income is more sustainable for the giver.

Those who hold this position feel tithing on net income is a more faithful application of biblical principles about tithing. They argue the tithe was intended for “increase” beyond what was invested to produce crops or livestock. Likewise, they feel Christians today should tithe on income left after accounting for expenses.

Practical considerations in the debate

Beyond the theological arguments on both sides, there are some practical considerations that come into play in this debate:

  • Tithing on gross income is simpler to calculate and removes subjectivity about what counts as a legitimate expense.
  • Tithing on net income allows people to tithe in a way they can sustain over time.
  • For those earning regular wages, net and gross income may be very similar.
  • For self-employed individuals or business owners, net income may vary a lot depending on business expenses.
  • In some situations, tithing on gross income before taxes are taken out may mean giving more than 10%.

These logistical aspects of the debate may influence someone’s opinion on what approach is best beyond just the biblical arguments on the issue.

Potential compromises

Given the good faith arguments on both sides of this debate, some Christians look for compromise positions, such as:

  • Tithing on gross income most years, but net income in years when expenses are unusually high or profits are very low.
  • Tithing on gross income for employees, but net income for business owners or self-employed people.
  • Giving 10% of gross income to the local church, but giving additional voluntary offerings from net income.

Christians aim for faithfulness in tithing, but may reach different conclusions about what that means for their situation. Seeking wisdom from the Bible, input from pastors, and guidance from the Holy Spirit can help each believer find the right approach.

Setting the right priorities

More important than the exact calculation method is having the right heart motivation behind giving. Tithing should be an act of worship, not legalistic rule-keeping. God cares more about the cheerful giver than the specific amount (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Rather than obsessing over whether the tithe is 10.2% or 9.8%, Christians should aim to honor God and give generously from however He has blessed them. Tithe should come off the top, not the leftovers, to demonstrate putting God first in finances. With the right biblical priorities on giving, the details of calculating the tithe often work themselves out.


There are good faith arguments on both sides regarding whether tithe should be based on gross income or net profit. Each Christian must study the Bible, pray for wisdom, and decide what approach represents faithfulness and obedience to God’s word in their situation. The most important things are giving God our best, not our leftovers, and doing so with a cheerful heart of worship. When tithing comes from a biblical motivation, the exact calculation method often becomes secondary.