Tithes and offerings are often lumped together as if they are the same thing. When the deacon passes the plate down the church pew, it is a plate for tithes and offerings, not just for one or the other. When you open your Adventist Giving app, you have the option to give both tithes and offerings. For these reasons, we often misunderstand what the differences are—or forget that there are differences—between these two forms of giving.

First, let’s define two distinct differences between tithes and offerings.

  1. A tithe is a fixed percentage of your income or monetary possessions. An offering is not a set amount and is not restricted to your income or monetary possessions.
  2. A tithe (in the Seventh-day Adventist Church) is governed by a set of church guidelines that determine how and where it is used. An offering is not.

Because of these differences, it is important that tithes and offerings are treated differently.  When you designate whether the money you are giving is a tithe or an offering, you are choosing how it will be used and what it will be used for.

What is a tithe used for?

The Adventist Church considers tithing to be a Biblical mandate to give 10 percent of your income. The actual definition of the word is a tenth of one’s income or proceeds. It is used more loosely today to define any specific percentage of your income given on a regular basis to the church, but it is typically 10 percent.

The North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church explains it as a portion that God has reserved for Himself to be used by the church. “God has given us clear directions as to the use of the tithe. It is to be devoted to the support of those who are bearing God’s message of mercy to the world” (https://www.nadstewardship.org/tithes-offerings/).

This group of people who are bearing God’s message to the world include pastors, evangelists, Bible teachers, and administrators. Your tithe dollar—which begins at your church—moves on to your local conference, the union, the division, and eventually the General Conference. All the while a portion is being given to each entity that is then passed back down to fund the individuals taking God’s message to the world. (Learn more about where your tithe dollar goes and how it is used here.)

What is an offering used for?

Nowhere in the Bible do the writers encourage us to be less generous. In fact, although the New Testament does not talk nearly as much about tithing, it emphasizes freewill giving numerous times. Some passages include Luke 6:38, 2 Cor. 9:7-8, 2 Cor. 8:12, Matt. 6:2, Matt. 19:21, Matt. 10:8, and Mark 12:43-44. These passages encourage us to give as we are able and to give freely.

Your freewill offerings are not nearly as restricted in how they are used. In fact, you have the capability to make many of the decisions in where they go and what they are used for. Loose offerings in the Adventist Church are used for specific purposes that rotate weekly. These purposes include local church budget, local conference advance, North American Division (with a specific emphasis), world budget (with a specific emphasis), evangelism, local union (with a specific emphasis), and specific divisions/unions being assisted. But if you’d rather your offering go to a different purpose than that week’s offering call, you can designate a different purpose on your offering envelope or online giving platform.

In addition to the differences in how tithes and offerings are used, there is another difference that is often overlooked—an offering is not restricted to your income or monetary possessions. This means that an offering does not need to be financial. In addition to your money, you can give of your time, your talents and abilities, and your body and mind. You may volunteer your time to mow your church’s lawn, volunteer your skills to assist with a church remodel, or volunteer your knowledge by teaching a class at your church.

How are tithes and offerings different for the giver?

In addition to seeing the differences in how tithes and offerings are used, you should also see the differences in the purpose and impact of tithes and offerings in your own life. The major difference between the two forms of giving is that a tithe is given out of trust, an offering is given out of gratitude.

By giving a tithe, we are trusting God will protect us and guide us no matter the amount of money we have in our bank accounts. By giving an offering, we are showing God gratitude for doing just that.