In the Old Testament portion of the Bible, people were required by God to give offerings for a variety of reasons, including atonement for sin, thanksgiving, peace and prosperity and even to celebrate festivals. They were also required to give one-tenth of their income type to the tabernacle. In the New Testament, the same principles are taught, however, under the theme of grace, taught in the New Testament, the requirement is lifted and rather, the offerings are based on a relationship covenant with God.
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A tithe, according to the Bible, is an offering of one-tenth of all income made. This did not always have to mean a financial tithe. In the Bible, many people farmed animals and produce and other types of goods and they were allowed to bring one-tenth of that as their tithe offering. Because tithing was required by God in the Old Testament, to not do so was considered to be an act of robbing from God. Biblical principles teach that all that is possessed is given by God, so a tithe offering is really giving back to God what was already his to begin with.
Offerings are items given to God outside of the tithe requirement. In the Bible, there are seven different types of offerings: burnt offerings, free will offerings, sin offerings, a trespass offering, a meat offering, peace offering and offerings of consecration to God. Each of these types of offerings had a specific purpose and meaning, and the Israelites were to perform these acts of offering at certain times of year and in response to certain situations to fill requirements God laid out.
Sacrifices, in the Bible, had a very solemn and specific meaning. The main requirement for a sacrifice in the Old Testament was the shedding of the blood of an animal. This was done annually for the atonement of sin. Once blood was shed, forgiveness from God was obtained. Sacrifices were usually done in combination with one of the seven offerings. In the New Testament, Jesus is considered to be the "great sacrifice" because when he died on the cross, the Bible says he was the final sacrifice, taking the place of the guilty, once and for all.
Alms are a type of offering given for the specific need of providing for the poor. Often, the poor would sit outside of the gates of the cities and villages and they would beg for alms from people who had money. The Bible instructs people to take care of the poor and the needy (Deuteronomy 15:7). The most famous example of the offering of alms giving in the Bible is of "The Widow's Mite" in Luke 21:1-4. While the rich were placing their money into the temple treasury, a poor widow came and gave the very last she had to share with the poor. Jesus said that she had given much more than anyone else had because while everyone else gave from their abundance, she had given all she had.
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