What is the purpose of the Second Tithe, and how should it be used?


Recently, questions arose as to the purpose and use of the second tithe.

In our free booklet, “Tithing—Today?”, we explain that the Bible speaks of three different types of tithes—the first, second and third tithe. In this Q&A, we will concentrate merely on the second tithe. In this regard, we state the following in our booklet:

“The SECOND tithe (or a second ten percent of one’s earnings or other income) is an additional tithe of one’s ‘increase’ (Deuteronomy 14:22–26). Soncino confirms that Deuteronomy 14:23 discusses the ‘second tithe.’ They state, ‘This refers to the second tithe, because the first tithe was to be given to the Levites who were allowed to eat it anywhere (cf. Num. xviii. 26, 31).’ The Ryrie Study Bible has a similar comment pertaining to Deuteronomy 14:22–27, confirming the existence of a ‘second tithe.’ So does ‘The New Bible Commentary: Revised,’ copyright 1970, on page 220: ‘This is the so-called “second tithe,” as contrasted with that tithe of the produce given to maintain the Levites (see Nu. 18:26–28).’

“The individual saves the second tithe each year for use in observing God’s annual Holy Days, mainly the Feast of Tabernacles (FOT), as members are commanded to travel for the FOT to one of God’s designated feast sites. (For more information, please read our free booklet, ‘God’s Commanded Holy Days.’) This tithe is to be saved for use by the individual. Only ‘excess second tithe’—the portion of the second tithe exceeding necessary individual use—should be sent to the Church. The Church will distribute such amount to members who were unable to save sufficient second tithe for the Holy Days, and it might use remaining funds for necessary Church-related Feast expenses (such as hall rentals).”

In regard to the second tithe, the following comments in our booklet are also relevant:

“More than 30 years ago, God’s Church made the administrative decision to ask Church members and co-workers to send one tenth of their second tithe to the Church to be used for necessary Feast of Tabernacles expenses, including rental for Church halls. Since then, the Church has usually referred to this amount as the ‘tithe of the tithe.’ Church members and co-workers were asked to calculate the amount of second tithe that would be available to them at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, and to send ten percent of that (calculated) amount to the Church, in advance as directed by the Church. This practice has allowed the Church to avoid using general contributions for the payment of Feast expenses, instead of being used for preaching the gospel and feeding the flock….”

In this Q&A, we want to set forth the long-standing teaching of the Church regarding the purpose and use of the SECOND TITHE, by quoting selectively from numerous Church publications.

In “The Good News,” dated October 1961, the article “Help the Poor” points out the following regarding the second tithe:

“This tithe is a specific command for all to come and rejoice before God on His annual Feast days—especially the Feast of Tabernacles. Included in this tithe –THE SECOND TITHE – are also the Levite…”

In “The Good News,” dated August 1980, the article, “How to Use Your Second Tithe,” states this:

“[The second tithe] is to provide for your Feast expenses – for your transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and pleasure during these days…  If your car needs repairs for you to attend the Feast, you may pay a certain portion of the cost from second tithe…”

The following cautionary remark is added:

“You could spend the bulk of your second tithe fixing your car and then not have enough money left to pay for Feast expenses. Obviously this would not be the thing to do…”

The article continues:

“Normally, you should not plan to buy clothing with your second tithe, except for special types of clothing that would be needed for the Feast but would not normally be a part of your wardrobe… Rarely should you buy an integral part of your wardrobe with second tithe. However, such an exception might arise in the case of an individual who simply does not have proper clothing to wear to attend God’s Feast and could not otherwise afford it. We should all appear before God well-groomed and nicely dressed.”

It was also pointed out in the article that it might be a good idea, for some, to deposit the second tithe money in a separate bank account (or use other safe procedures) to make sure one does not “borrow” from the second tithe… perhaps with the intent to pay it back later, which normally does not occur. Also regarding clothes, an example was given when brethren from warmer climates travel to a Feast site with cold weather where warmer clothing is needed; in such cases, second tithe could be used.

Regarding what type of items could be bought with second tithe, the article continues:

“Even though [certain] items would not be used primarily at the Feast, [some] reason that the scripture says you are to buy ‘whatever your soul desires,’ and their soul certainly desires … tricycles… or fishing equipment [unless they are being used during the Feast, such as some modest fishing equipment for a fishing trip]. This is erroneous reasoning. God is talking about buying whatever you might desire to be used at the Feast—primarily food, drink and good-quality housing. The whole reason for spending your tithe this way is that you may rejoice and look forward to the wonderful time of the Millennium.”

“Then is it wrong to buy gifts for the children and family? No. But use wisdom. You should not buy your child expensive gifts simply because it is from your second tithe. Suitable toys, books or games that will help make the Feast enjoyable for our child are perfectly all right. But do not buy the year’s supply of toys on the way to the Feast.”

In addressing the travel to the Feast, the article explains that one needs to be careful with sight-seeing trips and journeys for other reasons than going to the Feast, stating, “But when the trips [by car] begin to entail additional hundreds of miles in the opposite direction of the Feast, they should not be taken on second tithe… If the reason for the trip is to see the family—and incidentally, you are going to one of God’s Festivals—that is wrong.”

Regarding “excess second tithe,” the article explained:

“What if you are one of those who was abundantly blessed by God and have an excess of second tithe? God’s way is the way of giving, sharing and outgoing concern… God repeatedly exhorts us to remember the Levite, the widow, the fatherless, the poor and the stranger within our gates. The Levitical priesthood was replaced by Christ’s ministry today. God’s ministers do not save a second tithe [at least, they do not have to, but some choose to save the full or at least a portion of their income for second tithe], even as the Levites didn’t. Your excess second tithe helps pay their way to the Feast so they might teach you the plan of salvation.

“Your extra second tithe also is used by the Church to help some of the elderly or widows who have no second tithe to attend the Feast…”

In using some of the second tithe for attendance during the other annual Holy Days, it was pointed out that a small amount could be used “because that is where God has put His name for these feasts.” But this cautionary remark was added: “Never cut yourself short by spending too much money at the other feasts so that you cannot be with God’s people at the great Feast [of Tabernacles] in the fall.”

In “The Good News,” dated September 1981, the article “The Festival Tithe—Your Questions Answered,” contained additional comments as to the use of second tithe:

“This permission in unusual circumstances [to use some second tithe, “where there is sufficient money to take care of the other needs as well,” to buy “proper clothing so that (one) might be better able to go to the Feast”] has been used by some to justify large or expansive purchases of clothing or even whole wardrobes. Using the festival tithe in this way violates the basic spiritual intent of the law.”

The article also pointed out:

“…some people have overdone the giving of gifts at Feast time, sometimes buying expensive items they couldn’t really afford. Usually such items are used during the rest of the year as well. This goes far beyond the principle of using the festival funds to provide a joyous, happy Feast…”

Again condemning the idea of “borrowing” or rather “stealing” from the second tithe with the intent to pay it back later, the article addressed extra second tithe as follows:

“There are always those who have insufficient tithe to attend the Feast, or not enough to go and pay for normal expenses. To provide for this need, it has always been the practice of the Church members who have more than they need to turn in this excess to the Church. The Church then… uses these funds to take care of such needs… [Regarding new people who have not been tithing long enough to save enough festival tithe to attend,] it may be possible to assist them with enough funds for this one year, so that they can go.”

Other considerations should be mentioned.

We are commanded to give God an offering during each annual Holy Day. This offering should not be paid exclusively from second tithe. It is however possible to supplement the offering with second tithe.

Gifts for and at the Feast of Tabernacles should not become a substitute for Christmas, which could easily become the case if we are buying expensive gifts for just everyone.

The second tithe for the Feast of Tabernacles would not be ten percent of increase from the entire year, but somewhat less, as portions of the second tithe would have been used for the other annual Holy Days [making sure, however, that there is enough second tithe left for attending the Feast of Tabernacles].

Regarding the question of saving some of the second tithe for a special international trip to a Feast site the following year, this should be discussed with one’s pastor who can give advice based on special circumstances.

Finally, regarding assisting others financially, the individual desirous to do so should know the reasons why someone else does not have enough second tithe. Assisting someone who has mishandled his or her funds may not be the appropriate course of action, and it would be wise to counsel with a minister who might know more about the individual situation.

This Q&A was intended to give some guidelines and principles as to the proper use of second tithe, and undoubtedly many more questions might arise. In most cases, an honest self-examination, based on the statements set forth in this Q&A, will lead to the correct answer, without the need of consulting a minister. In unusual cases, the ministry is most certainly available to help.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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