Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tithing - Part 1

Coming off of the time of year where Americans spend the most money and typically accrue the most unsecured debt, I thought I'd begin the year with a blog post about tithing... 

Thing that we need to note is that the tithe is NOT unique only to Israel or Christianity in general.  It was practiced by several ancient nations and in some forms most nations still practice it today.

Quite simply the tithe is the practice of giving 1/10th of your income or property as an offering to God.  As far as Biblical history goes, the practice of tithing predates even the Mosaic Law.  The first recorded tithe is found in Genesis 14.  Abraham had just returned from rescuing Lot and destroying the Mesopotamian Kings… when he came back he went to the “Valley of the Kings” where he met with Melchizedek, who was the King and High Priest at the time.  

Melchizedek greeted him and they began to celebrate the victory and worship God for the victory and it says that of their spoils, Abraham gave Melchizedek 1/10th. That’s the first mention we see of a tithe and it doesn’t seem to have been anything that required Abraham to give it.  He seems to have simply offered it as an act of worship.  

Later in Genesis 28:22, “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” – Here we see Jacob promising God 1/10th of all he received, money, animals, etc…  Still he was also doing this under no compulsion but simply out of gratitude to God.

Now, it isn’t until we get to Leviticus 27; that we see tithing prescribed in detail in the Law of Moses.

Under Mosaic Law, Israel was required to pay the following tithes.
- Tithe of the seed of the land – Leviticus 27:30-32
- Tithe of the fruit of the tree – Leviticus 27:30-32
- Every 10th animal of their herds and flocks to the Lord – Leviticus 27:30-32
- A tithe was to be given to the Levites because they did not receive a land inheritance like the other tribes had. The Levites, in turn, were to offer a heave offering to the Lord.  That accounted to their tithe and what was left was their payment for their work in the tabernacle.– Numbers 18:21-32
- A vegetable tithe was taken to Jerusalem – Deuteronomy 12:5-7, 11-12, 17-18
- A cattle tithe – 2 Chronicles 31:6

By the time of the Exodus, no tithe is mentioned, the closest reference to required giving we have there is found in Ezekiel 44:29-30 where a giving of the First Fruits is required.

The Prophet Malachi instructed Israel to bring their tithes into the storehouse in order to enjoy the Lord’s blessing.  Malachi 3:8-12 - “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.  9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!  10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.  11 “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.  12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.

Regardless of the type of tithe being called for, they all were given for the purpose of running the Nation of Israel.  From governmental affairs to the Levites, caring for orphans and widows…

Deuteronomy 26:12-13 - “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.  13 “You shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments.

All tithes were an acknowledgment of God’s ownership of all things.  It was an expression of gratitude to God by His people.

Now, in the New Testament the word tithe and tithing is only a few times.  
Matthew 23:23 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Luke 11:42 - “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Luke 18:10-14 - “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Hebrews 7:5-6 - And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.  6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.

Hebrews 7:8-9 - In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.  9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes,

Reading through them all they have one thing in common… The are all without fail referring to the Old Covenant system.  In Matthew and Luke Jesus is chastening the Jews because they are keeping the Law in letter… keeping it in a legalistic way… making it a works based system… but they are neglecting the Spirit of the Law.  Paying tithes but caring nothing for their spiritual condition or anyone else’s.  Further they completely neglected true worship of the One true God.  They worshiped their own self-righteousness.

Plus, here Christ is reinforcing the Law that was still in place at this time given that this all took place in a pre-Pentecost time.  So tithing would have still been a Law requirement even during Christ’s life.  Christ Himself paid the tithes.  It wasn’t until Pentecost that we see the implementation of the New Covenant of Grace through the blood of Christ.

Then in Hebrews it is explained that Christ fulfills the requirements for those tithes.  Not only is Christ the fulfillment of all the OT Laws but He is also the perfect Great High Priest and He lives forever, reigning forever!

Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to tithe.  Nowhere.  A tithe is something that is required.  We aren’t under the covenant of the Law any longer… we are under a covenant of Grace in Jesus Christ.  The key word there to remember as we proceed is grace.

Matthew 5:17 - Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

I came, Jesus said, not to abolish (in other words He didn’t come to contradict the Law by doing away with it) RATHER He came to fulfill it.  The Laws had been given to show that no one could completely be perfect and reach God’s standard, but Christ could and did.

Christ initiated the New Covenant at the Last Supper and it went into effect on the Day of Pentecost.  So when we are looking at Old Covenant requirements verses New Covenant requirements, we can’t distinctively look Old Testament to New but rather pre-Pentecost and post-Pentecost..

Part 2: New Testament Principles for giving


  1. Good Stuff Pastor Jason. I especially like the way that you deal with the history of tithing broading the discussion of it practice beyond Biblical parameters. You do a great job of lifting several key scriptures that reference the subject including the Big 5
    1. Genesis 14 - Abraham & Melchizedek
    2. Leviticus 27 - The description of what the tithe is by Biblical definition
    3. Malachi 3 - God's accountability discussion with "a man" who was robbing him of the tithes that were being brought.
    4. Matther 23:23 - Reinforcement of the parameters of tithing and that it was a consumable good.
    5. Luke 18 - A parable which reinforces that God looks at the heart of an individual more so than he does the percentage of their giving.

    I believe you did a really good job with this from a Christian perspective and your writing is strong enough that it has enough meat for the scholar to sink his/her teeth into but mild enough to provoke babes in Christ to want to study more.

    It's refreshing to see a Pastor hold to the truth of what is printed in the Word of God vs. perpetuating a teaching that is simply handed down because it is what has been taught to him. Thank you for your feallessness and boldness in Christ. I know this couldn't have been easy for you to do especially considering your circle of peers. I faced this same pressure when giving consideration to finishing the book the Lord led me to write Sunday Morning Stickup what your pastor doesn't want you to know about tithes.

    You hinted at the tithe being a foreshadowing of Christ. I think I'd like to see you do more indepth discussion/writing on this. The cartoon above says it all ;)

    God's Peace!
    David Lee

  2. Ooooh more on Christ foreshadowed in the tithe. That DOES peak my interest. Think I'll work on that!