The Terumah Offering

Q. The pastor of our church has in the past taught regularly on tithing and giving, but recently he has introduced the need for a Terumah offering, which he says we must do to be truly blessed the way God wants us to be. He teaches that the Terumah offering is a further 2.5% of our gross income and is paid directly to him for his personal use. I have not heard of this before and it troubles me. Can you shed some light please.

A. The terumah, or heave offering, was an additional offering meant for the priests, first mentioned in Exodus 9:27. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia it was not to be measured by number or weight but was to be estimated based on the tithe. Guidelines of 1/40th (2.5%) were established as the gift of a generous man. Since the priests had no land and received no income, this offering, together with certain specified portions of other offerings, provided them with the sustenance they and their families required. Priests who improperly accepted a terumah offering had to repay it along with a 20% penalty. Intentional violation of these conditions was considered one of the great crimes a priest could commit.

In summary, the terumah offering was meant to assure that the priests were adequately supported. These days, congregations normally provide their pastor with a salary and other benefits. If that’s true in your case, then I think most people would agree that the terumah offering is no longer necessary.

If you decide to voluntarily give this special offering as an additional indication of your gratitude to the Lord for what you’ve already been given, then the Lord will surely bless you (Luke 6:38). But I don’t think there’s Biblical support for a pastor requiring you to do so as a condition of the Lord’s blessing. 2 Cor. 9:7 says each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for the Lord loves a generous giver. Requiring such an offering replaces generosity with obligation and defeats its purpose.

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