Tithing, Then And Now.
What About Tithing?
Today, it's nothing more than paying for favors.
This is not an article on the laws of tithing but a brief of them. This is a quick look at tithing overall, the big picture. This may be the way you wished it was, if you are or were, ever a member in the Worldwide Church of "G-d" (WCOG) or any of the break away COG's.
What is a tithe? It is tenth of something, when dealing with the ETERNAL it is one tenth of your increase. The tenth is not based on your -gross salary- or -net salary- but it is based on your increase and it is something you must figure. It does not matter if your are a farmer, a wage earner, or a stockbroker you must figure your increase to tithe on.
How many tithes are there? There are two tithes, one for the ETERNAL and one for you. What do you do with your tithe? You spend it on yourself and your family in order to keep the ETERNAL's Holy Days. What do you do with the ETERNAL's tithe? That is simple, you do His work. Either you tell Israel their sins and warn them to return to the ETERNAL or you support someone who is doing that.
What types of money are there? There are two types of money, one you tithe and one you do not. You do not tithe on pensions, social security, or disability pay as you should have tithed on them when you first earned them. Charitable gifts and government assistance are also not tithed on. You do tithe on the increase that you or your money produces.
How is the increase figured? First determine all moneys that you receive then separate out the money that you do not pay tithe on. Then add together all of your expenses to earn that money. This would include seed, fertilizer, gasoline, the cost of goods sold, parking, continuing education, food, etc. Subtract your income expense [money spent to earn your income] from your total income, and that is your tithable increase.
What about widows, orphans, etc.? Every third year the ETERNAL's tithe is used for that purpose.
Tithing Before The Mosaic Law.
There are two Biblical passages which speak of a tithe being given before the Law was instituted at Sinai. They involve two of the Hebrew patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob.
(Genesis 14:17-20) (NASB) 17Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of the ETERNAL Most High. 19And he blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram of the ETERNAL Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be the ETERNAL Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' And he gave him a tenth of all.
In this passage we are told that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, presumably as an expression of gratitude to the ETERNAL for enabling him to rescue his nephew Lot who had been taken captive. Those who believe that tithing is binding upon New Testament believers argue that since tithing was practiced before the Mosaic Law was given, it must also be practiced after the Mosaic Law. Before we come to any hard and fast conclusions, however, let's take a closer look at the text and make some pointed observations.
There is no evidence in this text that tithing was commanded by God. In fact, everything in the text leads us to believe that giving this tithe was completely Abraham's decision and choice. As such, it was completely voluntary. As we will see a little later in our study, tithing under the Law was not voluntary at all, but mandatory upon all the ETERNAL's people. Furthermore, this is the only tithe mentioned in Scripture that Abraham ever gave. We have no evidence that this was his general practice. In addition, this tithe came from the spoils of victory that Abraham acquired by military might. As we shall note later in our study, the tithe required under the Mosaic Law was the increase of crops, fruit, and herds to be given on an annual basis -- not the spoils of a military victory!
(Genesis 28:20-22) (NASB) 20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If the ETERNAL will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21and I return to my father's house in safety, then the ETERNAL will be my SOVEREIGN. 22This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be the ETERNAL's house; and of all that Thou dost give me I will surely give a tenth to Thee.
Jacob, in this passage, is making a vow in response to a visitation of the ETERNAL to him in a dream. In the dream Jacob saw a ladder reaching to heaven with the angels of the ETERNAL ascending and descending on it. In the dream the ETERNAL stood above the ladder and said to Jacob, "I am the ETERNAL, the SOVEREIGN of your father Abraham and the SOVEREIGN of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:13-15). The ETERNAL promised Jacob that He would be with him, and keep him wherever he would go and bring him back to this land. In response, Jacob vowed that if the ETERNAL kept his promise, he in turn would give the ETERNAL a tenth.
Again, we must observe exactly what the text does and does not say. Nowhere are we told that the ETERNAL commanded Jacob to give Him a tithe. Again, along with Abraham's example, it appears that the giving of this tithe was voluntary on Jacob's part. Also, there is no evidence in the text to suggest that tithing was the general practice of Jacob's life. If he did in fact begin to tithe after the ETERNAL fulfilled His promises to him, Jacob still delayed tithing for 20 years!
These two examples are the only examples of tithing to be found in the Old Testament before the Law was given. Both were examples of voluntary giving, and neither was required by the ETERNAL. In neither personage do we see an example of tithing as a general practice of life. In fact, in Abraham's life it appears that we have a tithe of the spoils of military victory given to the ETERNAL's priest on a one time only basis. If our only evidence to obligate believers under the [New Testament]™ to tithe rests on these two passages in Genesis, it seems to me that we are resting on pretty shaky ground!
Tithing Under The Mosaic Law.
What does the Bible teach about tithing under the Mosaic Law? In this section of our study, we will examine all the significant passages of Scripture which describe the tithe under the Law.
(Leviticus 27:30-33) (NASB) 30Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the ETERNAL's; it is holy to the ETERNAL. 31If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the ETERNAL. 33He is not to be concerned whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; or if he does exchange it, then both it and its substitute shall become holy. It shall not be redeemed.
Notice that in this passage the tithe is described as the product of the land, seed of the land, fruit of the tree, herd or flock. The tithe was not the giving of money. Nowhere in all of the Scriptures will you find that tithing was the giving of money to the ETERNAL. Furthermore, this tithe was probably given on an annual basis. Every year after the land had been harvested, the people would bring to the priests their tithe of their harvest and increase in herds and flocks. Thus, I think that we can readily see that our weekly giving of ten per cent of our income is a far cry from the Biblical practice of tithing.
(Numbers 18:21-24) (NASB) 21And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. 22The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, lest they bear sin and die. 23Only the Levites shall perform the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the ETERNAL, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore I have said concerning them, They shall have no inheritance among the sons of Israel.
Notice in this text that the tithe was designated for the support of the Levites. Because the Levites had no inheritance in the land of Canaan like the other tribes, the ETERNAL provided for their support through the tithes of the rest of Israel. In fact in (Numbers 18:31) we are told, "And you [Levites] may eat it anywhere, you and your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the tent of meeting." The tithe was the compensation the ETERNAL provided for the Levites in turn for their priestly service.
(Deuteronomy 14:22-27) (NASB) 22You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23You shall eat in the presence of the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN always. 24If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN blesses you, 25then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN chooses. 26You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN and rejoice, you and your household. 27Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
This text speaks of a tithe being used to provide for the religious feasts and festivals of Israel. (Numbers 18:21) tells us that the ETERNAL gave all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance to the Levites. If all the tithe was given to the Levites, how then, can this tithe be said to be used for the religious feasts and festivals of Israel? The answer must be that this is a second tithe. The first tithe was used to support the Levites. The second tithe was used to sponsor the religious festivals and has come to be referred to as the Festival Tithe. The people of Israel were to use this tithe to eat in the presence of the ETERNAL in Jerusalem (the place where He chose to establish His name). If it was too burdensome for them to bring their tithe all the way to Jerusalem, they were permitted to sell it and bring the money to Jerusalem where they could purchase goods for the festivals. The ETERNAL expressly encourages them to spend their money on "whatever their heart desires," including strong drink! The purpose was so that the people of Israel would learn to fear the ETERNAL their SOVEREIGN and rejoice before Him. Note that having a sense of the fear of the ETERNAL and rejoicing before Him are not mutually exclusive, but were actually complementary to accompany one another! This tithe made it possible for the people of Israel to obtain all the food and drink necessary to enjoy the religious feasts of Israel and worship before Him.
(Deuteronomy 14:28-29) (NASB) 28At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Here we are told of a third tithe that is collected every third year. Bible commentators are divided as to whether this tithe is actually a third separate tithe, or just the second tithe used in a different way on the third year. The Jewish historian Josephus supports the view that this was a third separate tithe. It is probably impossible to determine with any finality. In any event, it was the Israelites who have been commanded to give tithes of their harvests and flocks. This particular tithe could well be called the Poor Tithe. It was not to be gathered in Jerusalem, but in their own town. The people of the town were to bring a tithe of their crops and herds and gather them together to take care of the poor of their towns including the alien, orphan and widow.
It appears that under the Law, the tithe was required, so the people would be responsible to support the priests, festivals, and the poor (aliens, widows, and orphans).
(Nehemiah 12:44) (NASB) On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served.
Notice that the text says tithes were required by the Law. This giving was not voluntary as it was in Abraham and Jacob's lives. Tithing was never voluntary under Mosaic Law. Notice here that in Nehemiah's day men were appointed to gather the offerings and tithes into chambers designated for that particular purpose. These chambers were for the stores and later became known as the "storehouses." This will become important as we look at our next text.
(Malachi 3:8-12) (NASB) 8Will a man rob the ETERNAL? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the ETERNAL of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes, says the ETERNAL of hosts. 12All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land, says the ETERNAL of hosts.
In order to glean some important truths from this passage, let's examine it verse by verse.
Malachi 3:8 - Here we are told that by withholding tithes a man is actually robbing the ETERNAL. That is to say, he is withhholding something which is not his own, but is the property of the ETERNAL. Under the Law, tithing was compulsory. To withhold it was to become a thief. Notice also that the ETERNAL says the people were robbing him in "tithes." It does not say "the tithe", but in "tithes" (plural). These "tithes" must refer to the different tithes required of the ETERNAL's people (Levite Tithe, Festival Tithe, Poor Tithe). Additionally, observe that it was not only withheld tithes that the ETERNAL objected to, but also offerings. These offerings refer, no doubt, to the offerings specified in (Leviticus 1-5), such as the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. These offerings were constituted primarily of animal sacrifices. The Levites' food supply was provided in large part through these animal sacrifices, of which they were permitted to partake in certain instances.
Malachi 3:9 - Here we are told that if Israel withheld the tithes and offerings, she was cursed with a curse. Notice that the verse doesn't say, "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole race of mankind." Rather it says, "the whole nation of you." If tithing is an eternal moral command for all people of all time, then the whole race of mankind would be under a curse. But our text says it is only the whole nation of Israel who were under the curse. Now, what is interesting about this "curse" is that in (Deuteronomy 28) we are told that if Israel disobeyed the ETERNAL's commands under the Mosaic Law she would be cursed. Notice the following texts: "Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock... And the heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron... The ETERNAL will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. You shall bring out much seed to the field but you shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant and cultivate vineyards, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm shall devour them. You shall have olive trees throughout your territory but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives shall drop off. So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you" (Deuteronomy 28:18, Deuteronomy 28:23-24, Deuteronomy 28:38-40, Deuteronomy 28:45). In these verses the ETERNAL warns that if His people disobey His commandments and statutes, their crops would fail, the rains would not come, the harvests would be small, the locusts would consume the food, and the fruit of the trees would fail.
Malachi 3:10 - In this passage the ETERNAL speaks of the "storehouse." From (Nehemiah 12:44) we know that this refers to chambers in the temple set apart and designated to hold the tithes of the people for the support of the priests. There is not a shred of Biblical evidence that we should identify these "storehouses" with church buildings that believers under the [New Testament]™ are to bring their monies into. Furthermore the reason Israel was to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, was so that there would be food in the ETERNAL's house. The ETERNAL was concerned that the Levites had food to eat. That was the purpose of these tithes which were brought to the ETERNAL's temple. We are also told that if the ETERNAL's people were faithful in bringing their tithes into the storehouse, the ETERNAL would open up the windows of heaven and pour out for them a blessing until it overflowed. This no doubt refers to the ETERNAL's promise to bring abundant rains to produce the blessing of an overflowing harvest of crops.
Malachi 3:11 - The ETERNAL further promises in this text to rebuke the devourer for them, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground. Undoubtedly, the "devourer" refers to locusts which the ETERNAL warns will come upon their crops if they fail to bring the tithe (Deuteronomy 28:38).
Malachi 3:12 - In this text the ETERNAL graciously promises that if Israel is obedient in the giving of tithes and offerings, all the nations will call her blessed. It is interesting that the ETERNAL not only warned Israel of being cursed for disobedience to the Law, but also promised that she would be blessed if she obeyed the Law. Notice these texts, "Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN... Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock... The ETERNAL will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the ETERNAL your SOVEREIGN gives you... And the ETERNAL will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the ETERNAL swore to your fathers to give you. The ETERNAL will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Deuteronomy 28:4, Deuteronomy 28:8, Deuteronomy 28:11-12). Here the ETERNAL promises to bless Israel materially if she is obedient. The promises include abundant crops, copious rains, and large increases in herds and flocks.
Therefore, it is my conviction that the blessings and cursings spoken of in (Malachi 3:8-12) refer to the material blessings the ETERNAL promised to Israel if she would obey His commandments and statutes. Tithing was one such commandment.
What can we conclude, therefore, about tithing under the Law? I think we can safely conclude that tithing had nothing to do with the regular giving of money on a weekly or monthly basis, but rather had to do with the ordained worship of the ETERNAL.
The ETERNAL's Word On Tithes And Offerings.
(Genesis 14:20) (KJV) - Melchizedek comes out to meet Abraham, as Abraham gives him a tithe of the spoils of his victory.
(Genesis 28:20-22) (KJV) - After the vision of the ETERNAL's renewed covenant, Jacob initiates a covenant with the ETERNAL vowing to give him a tithe of what he receives from the promised land.
(Leviticus 27:30-32) (KJV) - The specifications of tithing is introduced into the Law of Moses.
(Numbers 18:20-32) (KJV) - The tithe is dedicated the Levites for the work in the tabernacle.
(Deuteronomy 12:5-11) (KJV) - The ETERNAL gives instructions for what to do with the tithe once Israel crosses the Jordan.
(Deuteronomy 14:22-29) (KJV) - The ETERNAL gives instructions on how to disperse and exchange the tithe.
(Deuteronomy 26:12-15) (KJV) - The ETERNAL gives instructions on how Israel should sanctify the tithe before they can ask for a blessing.
(2 Chronicles 31:5-12) (KJV) - The children of Israel do what's right under the reign of Hezekiah, and bring the tithes to the designated places.
(Nehemiah 10:37-38) (KJV) - Israel obeys the ETERNAL and brings the tithes to the storehouse.
(Nehemiah 12:44) (KJV) - Officers were appointed to watch over the tithes in the storehouse.
(Nehemiah 13:5-12) (KJV) - Nehemiah cleanses the storehouse and kicks Tobiah out of the room that was designated to store the tithe. He then restores order.
(Amos 4) (HCSB) - The ETERNAL commands Israel to bring back the tithe and reiterates the curse that is upon them if they don't.
(Malachi 3:8-10) (KJV) - The ETERNAL reprimands Israel for not delivering the tithe, and reiterates the blessings and curse that would be in result of whatever decision they chose.
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