There are questions, debates, and arguments surrounding a scriptural topic that most ignore and still others avoid, but God has made His position clear concerning it: the tithe. Not only has He made it clear, but He has made it personal. As we take a few moments in this article to view the scripture we will address the “why” question in hopes that, by God’s grace, we will illuminate both our mind and spirit with understanding.
Let’s start by taking a look at the most common referred to scripture as it relates to the tithe:
“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! 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. 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. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:8-12)
God starts His address to the nation of Israel by making this issue personal. He said, “You are robbing Me . . .” so we can first take away the fact that this is a very important issue to God. He also uses the term “robbing” which implies that it is something that is His to begin with, and we are responsible for denying Him access to it. Now, the question is, what is the tithe? Let’s turn again to the scripture to define it:
“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy… Count off every tenth animal from your herds and flocks and set them apart for the LORD as holy.” (Leviticus 27:30, 32)
So, by biblical definition according to God, the tithe is 10 percent. Ten percent of what? Ten percent of our increase and, more specifically, the first of our increase, “Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income . . .” (Proverbs 3:9).
God does not take pleasure in leftovers. The scripture speaks often that where our hearts are is where our treasure is. For us to say that God takes first place in our lives but that He is the last on our list of giving makes us liars. We are always giving. We give for our power, our water, our food, our home, our entertainment, our toys, etc. We may say in our hearts that we are paying a fee for a service or product, and that is absolutely correct. We do not argue the principle that for any service or product we must give the pre-determined amount, so why do we attempt to argue this with God? The fact of the matter is that only with God is there a sworn promise to return what is given in even greater measure.
So, why the tithe? What is God’s purpose for instituting this system? God intended the tithe to set up His house to fulfill its ministry to Him and His people. Without the obedience of His people in supporting His house the ministry of God is prevented from fulfilling its service to Him and the people. We often state that, “God will provide.” This is true, but what is equally true is that God created a system by which He has entrusted us with His resource to provide what is needed for His service. This is God’s system of incorporating our participation in all that He does and, therefore, we become benefactors of even greater increase because this is how He demonstrates that He is the God of limitless provision. Let’s go back to when God instituted the tithe and understand its purpose:
“The Levites will receive no allotment of land among the Israelites, because I have given them the Israelites’ tithes, which have been presented as sacred offerings to the LORD. This will be the Levites’ share. That is why I said they would receive no allotment of land among the Israelites.” The LORD also told Moses, “Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive—a tithe of the tithe—to the LORD as a sacred offering. The LORD will consider this offering to be your harvest offering, as though it were the first grain from your own threshing floor or wine from your own winepress. You must present one-tenth of the tithe received from the Israelites as a sacred offering to the LORD. This is the LORD’s sacred portion, and you must present it to Aaron the priest. 29 Be sure to give to the LORD the best portions of the gifts given to you. “Also, give these instructions to the Levites: When you present the best part as your offering, it will be considered as though it came from your own threshing floor or winepress. You Levites and your families may eat this food anywhere you wish, for it is your compensation for serving in the Tabernacle. You will not be considered guilty for accepting the LORD’s tithes if you give the best portion to the priests. But be careful not to treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common. If you do, you will die.” (Numbers 18:23-32)
So, the tithe was intended to secure the function of the priest by providing for the priests. They were not permitted to own any property for agricultural or economical purposes. Their portion or inheritance was God Himself; meaning that what the Hebrew people were commanded to bring to God took care of those who were called to do His work. In this way they were able to fully commit themselves to the full-time service of His house and the people. How does this translate into New Testament Church life? Is there precedence for applying the same system in the function of the Church? Once again, let’s take a look at the scripture:
“So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)
“Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.” (1Corinthians 9:13-14)
So, clearly the answer to the question is, yes! There is a biblical precedence for the church to function with the same system as the Israelites. If God has directed us to function in this way then His promises for doing so are just as firm to us now as they were then.
Let me conclude by sharing some scripture that reinforces God’s sworn promises to our obedience in the area of the tithe:
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10
“And the first of all, the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house.” Ezekiel 44:30
“For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” 2Corinthians 9:7-10