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Tithing to God


We are often asked about tithing. It is a controversial subject which many would rather avoid but it introduces important Scriptural principles that God wishes us to understand.

The Principle of the Tithe

The principle of tithing is first expressed in Genesis 14 verses 18—20. Melchizedek, a representation of Christ himself (Psalm 110 verse 4), met with Abraham and offered him bread and wine. This is a powerful prophetic illustration of Christ giving bread and wine at the last supper. In response Abraham gave a tithe (a tenth) of everything he had as a worshipful free-will offering. There is no doubting the link between God’s reconciliation with man through Christ at the cross and our worshipful offering back to Him.

The Commanded Tithe
Before entering the promised land the Israelites were given the law to follow and promised blessings or curses according to whether they followed God’s commands (Deuteronomy 28—29). Leviticus 27 verse 30 introduces the command to tithe “A tithe of everything from the land belongs to the Lord”.

The tithe for the first two of every three years harvest was to be used for food for the family’s annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut 14 verses 22—27). It seems that the Israelites only tithed to others once every third year after they settled in the promised land. Deuteronomy 14 verses 28 & 29 explains what happened every third year: “And at the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it within your gates. And the Levite, because he has not inheritance with you, and the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates may eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

The main message of the prophet Amos was to pronounce God’s judgment upon Israel for their exploitation and oppression of the poor. He proclaimed “Bring your sacrifices every morning and your tithes every three years” (Amos 4 verse 4). The most commonly quoted verses commanding tithing are from the prophet Malachi 3 verses 9—11 who pronounces that Israel is under a curse because it is robbing God of tithes and offerings. Verse 10 proclaims “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in My house”.

In summary tithing was commanded under the law every two years for the household’s use on their pilgrimage to the feast of Tabernacles. Every third year’s tithe was to storehouses kept by the civil rulers in each town or city for the four classes of people who were not provided for under the system of inherited land. The only part that was used for worship at the temple was a tenth of the Levite’s 25% share, i.e. 2.5% (see Numbers 18 verse 26 and Nehemiah 10 verse 38). The temple was primarily supported by other means such as the many sacrifices and offerings and the annual atonement money (Exodus 30 verses 11-16). The Mosaic commandment to tithe seems largely to have been written to provide food for those in the towns and cities who were not provided for under the system of land inheritance. God promised blessing for those who obeyed His law and curses for those who didn’t. By comparison to “The Principle of the Tithe” it is so different that one wonders whether it really was based on the principle or was simply a form of taxation to provide for the needy. This is highly debatable.

Tithing to God
But to return to the practical, there is an overwhelming desire shown through the Bible that our giving to God should be as a joyous offering, not a compliant obligation, to God. We are descendants of Abraham and under the covenant of faith, freed from bondage to the law (Galatians 3 verses 1-16) and the last thing God wants to see is legalistic calculations to see how much we must give. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9 verses 6-8 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

A question we are often asked is whether contributions to Liberty Trust should be regarded as part of one’s tithe. Contributions are an investment you have made as a steward of God’s resources. You had a choice whether to pay interest to a bank or contributions to a part of God’s Kingdom. As the cost of interest is up to three times higher than contributions you will benefit financially. We believe there is no reason therefore why you should reduce your tithe giving to your church.

Tithing is an important Scriptural principle. We believe each believer needs to balance the principle shown in Genesis 14 with the teachings of Jesus. Undoubtedly a tithe of our income belongs to the Lord (Leviticus 27 verse 30). But Jesus also tells us that everything we have belongs to God (see the Parable of the Talents Matthew 25 verses 14-29).

The important principle is that God would have us give according to His leading as a generous, joyous, worshipful sacrifice to Him.

Kelvin Deal
Chairman, Liberty Trust

As published in March 2002 Liberty Trust Newsletter

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