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Tithing was and still remains an integral part of the children of Israel and the New Testament believers alike. However, it is also of vast importance to acknowledge that it is one the most debatable topic amongst church members today. Interestingly, the word of God is full of Bible verses that mention tithing and it will be very helpful if we are to look into some of them for reference and Bible Study purposes.
The main goal and reason for uncovering this hot topic are to come up with a concrete and solid conclusion of whether giving tithe is still necessary for the new covenant or whether it was only relevant to the Old Testament system.
What is a tithe?
Before we delve deep into this subject, first, let’s start by understanding the definition of a tithe. What is a tithe? The definition comes from Hebrew and it simply means ”a tenth”. Tithing in the Bible refers to giving ten percent of your annual earnings, produce, or possessions. The Bible is very clear in Leviticus where it states the following:
From this portion of scripture, we can see that tithing was an integral part of the Lord Almighty’s commands and part of the more important matters of the law. As a supporting scripture, Proverbs says this.
In the Old Testament, this command was meant to be observed and honored by all people of Israel according to the Mosaic law.
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When was tithe first mentioned in the bible?
The first mention of tithe that was made in the Bible was first recorded in the book of Genesis when Abram (whose name later changed to Abraham) on his return from battle, was met by Melchizedek whose translation of his name means ”King Of Righteousness” who attributes Abram’s victory to God and blesses Abram. In response to the blessing and gratitude, Abram gives Melchizedek the king of Salem a tenth of all his possessions.
Melchizedek was a type of Christ, whose priesthood is based on His endless life because he had no beginning, ending, or parents (Hebrews 7:1-3). Jesus Christ was a high priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17)
Another portion of scripture worth looking at is the book of Genesis 28, where Jacob (aka Israel) the second man to ever perform the act of tithing was recorded in the Bible.
It is also important to note that when these two men performed these acts it was before the law of Moses was given to the whole nation of Israel. From the two examples above, we can all agree that the act of giving the tenth part of our possessions was in existence way before the Mosaic law even came into existence. The word tithe went on to be mentioned in several scriptures in the Bible and we shall be touching on some as we continue with the topic.
Tithing in the Bible: The Old Testament
As we have noted, tithing has its roots in the Old Testament and it will be good if we can explore the different kinds of tithes that the children of Israel would sacrifice to the Lord of hosts. They were to give a tenth of their produce and livestock to the Levites.
Firstly, let’s look at who were the Levites. They were the descendants of Levi and one of the twelve tribes of Israel, which had been given a priestly office and set apart to serve God in that capacity. The Sons of Aaron and their descendants were the Levites. They were the teachers of the law.
Unlike the other eleven tribes of Israel, they were not given their own land as an inheritance. So, the tithe they received was their “salary”. Of that, they gave a tenth (tithe of the tithe) to the priest of God most high who served in the temple. The tithe made sure that there was a tribe who could spend all their time serving God on behalf of the rest of the nation of Israel (Numbers 18:21-29).
The second type of tithe was the one to be taken to the temple once a year. It was to be enjoyed at the holy feast. The people were to take a tenth of their produce, fruit, grain, wine, and livestock, and they could bring their families, including their servants and Levites living in their towns, and enjoy together. This holy feast had to take place before the Lord, in the place where the Tabernacle or the temple was. This tithe of your grain and tithe of your produce was a tithe to be enjoyed and was also seen as a way to honor God.
”Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:
The other tithe that was mentioned in the Old Testament was the three yearly tithe, which was stored in the city where people lived. This was also used as a source of food for the Levites, the orphans, the widows, and foreigners, any needy person who did not have a secure form of income. These good deeds were also a way of ministering to the needs of others.
There was a blessing attached to tithing because it showed obedience to God.
Tithing in the church today
Tithing today refers to the money or goods believers give to the house of the Lord in service to God. The most common way of tithing in today’s churches is the payment of ten percent of one’s monthly gross income to their local church. The money is then channeled to different needs in the house of our God such as the pastor’s salary, the cost of building, mission, and the needy, to mention but a few.
Over 2000 years later, many different opinions have surfaced concerning Biblical tithing and how to tithe correctly. Many theories and teachings have been shared on different platforms concerning whether we should commit to paying ten percent of our earnings or rather simply stick to being generous as taught by scripture in many passages of the New Testament.
According to this scripture, our blessings will be based on our willingness to bless others. A man who is himself kind to the poor and who has that “character” established – will find many who are ready to help “him” abundantly when he is in want. We only get what we’re humble and open to receiving from God. Once we receive something from God, we only produce what we’re willing to release to other people. This is because we receive back only from what we invest in.
In that sense, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and the resulting return is a good measure pressed down and overflowing in our laps.
When we give we don’t lose out but rather we gain more back. This goes beyond giving tithes and offerings to giving love, blessing, and forgiveness to others as well. That same God has been generous with us, in the same way, he expects us to be generous to others too.
Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of generosity in almost all his letters to the New Testament churches:
It is the above verses and many others, that boost our zeal to give unto the house of the Lord through tithing and offerings.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in (Mathew 23:23) affirmed the existence of tithing whilst rebuking scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The Pharisees gave tithes that were meticulous and noteworthy but hypocritical because the tithes served to soothe the guilt of their neglect of the weightier matters of the law such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
The words of the Lord Jesus here don’t mean we should not tithe but that we should do it alongside caring for others’ welfare. Jesus was teaching us here that whatever we do, should be done with the right heart, pure intentions, and sincere faith in God.
Those who are in ministry, pastors, and leaders in the church need our spiritual support through prayers and encouragement, our emotional support in the form of kind words and support as well as financial support with our tithes and offerings.
Spiritual Significance of Tithing
Nowadays, some theological scholars and believers will argue that tithing is an Old Testament practice and since Jesus came with a new covenant, the practice is no longer relevant in this day and age. This is a hugely debatable issue that varies from one denomination to the other depending on the revelation and leading of the Holy Spirit. However, let’s look at some of the advantages of tithing from a spiritual point of view. Whilst tithing attracts the blessing of the Almighty, the opposite is completely true.
There are a few verses in the Holy scriptures particularly in Malachi chapter 3. One of the most popular scripture quoted when teaching about tithe and offerings is this.
It’s crystal clear that God was not pleased with the whole nation of Israel concerning tithes and offerings. Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you. It’s holding onto something unlawfully. When we don’t offer God tithes and offerings in the church, we are stealing from him. It’s shocking, shameful and shows that we don’t have gratitude for what he does for us.
God did not hold back in declaring that they were robbing Him and because of that they were experiencing curses in the land due to God’s anger. If you feel you’re under a financial curse or not experiencing a financial breakthrough, it could be because you have failed to do the most important things first in the house of the Lord.
God instructs us to bring the full tithe not part of it. You give all that God commands you because there is a blessing when you do. This is probably the only time when God asks us to “test” his instructions. He wants us to try tithing and realize that we will only gain from it and not lose out. He promises to open the windows of heaven with provision and protection when we do.
Givers are always blessed and remembered by the Lord. Just like the widow at Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:7-16 who gave her last bread to Elijah. She received blessings that she truly hadn’t pictured or expected because God promises to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can think or ask (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Everything belongs to God not just the tithes and offerings. He owns it all and even the 90% we have left after tithing is for us to manage. He calls us to be good stewards of the gifts and blessings that we have.
When we prioritize tithes and make the first thing, the main thing, everything else that we are praying for, longing for, and dreaming of will be given to us. This is the promise the Lord gives us.
God is the greatest giver of all time and as his children, we learn generosity from him. After all, He gave first and taught us about giving when He offered us His only begotten son (John 3:16), that through Him we may have eternal life. This amazing love of God we’ve been shown compels us ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-15) to give our tithes and offering to him. The same way we give gifts, time, and affection to those we love is the same way we give to God in the church.
The church of today relies mainly on believers’ monthly gross income for tithes and offerings. Money is spiritual. Yes, you read that right, money is indeed spiritual. Money in the form of banknotes is exchanged from one person to the other, country to country, and even continent to continent. The same note that was used in drug deals may one day find its way into the church’s offering basket, same as the note used in corrupt activities may end up landing in your wallet at some point.
Such kind of money is without doubt cursed and dirty money. Some money that circulates across our borders is blood money and as such, requires cleansing. I am of the view that, by paying our tithes and offerings unto the Lord, the evil voices behind dirty money are silenced, and automatically our money is cleansed and free from curse. Once we attract the blessing of the Lord we will be productive and prosperous in every aspect of our lives.
After the Lord commanded the house of Israel to ”Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse’‘ Malachi 3:10. A promise was given in the follow-up scriptures that He will rebuke the devourer (enemy of progress) for their sakes.
This means whatever that was working against them was now going to be destroyed, their curse was going to be turned into a blessing. Instead of experiencing loss and disappointments, their harvest was going to increase and once again they would enjoy a land of plenty. The Lord promises his provision, protection, and presence when we tithe faithfully to him.
New Testament tithing
Tithing is not often mentioned in the New Testament except where it is describing Old Testament practices or in the Gospels where Jesus is addressing people who were under the Old Testament law. However, there are several New Testament teaching which may be very helpful to us.
This passage of scripture brings out some key points for giving. We should give individually, regularly, methodically, and proportionately and our giving should be planned. The matter of giving is and has always been between you and God. Giving should never be out of a sense of duty but rather out of a desire and a burning zeal to see our heavenly Father’s kingdom advance. Therefore, let us make Christ Jesus a priority in our lives, not the love of money, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the driver of our lives.
Billy Graham, a renowned American evangelist who was a prominent evangelical Christian figure and one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, in his books and teachings about tithing, once mentioned another form of tithing that Christians should also embrace and practice. He taught about tithing ”time” by devoting ten percent of your time to God. I personally think this is a good teaching that reminds us that God is not only interested in a portion of our income or the first fruits of our labor but rather He desires to have a relationship with us. Giving should be a lifestyle for the believer.
One might argue or try to find excuses by saying, ”l don’t have a decent job, therefore, l can’t tithe” but everyone has the same 24hrs a day whether rich or poor so somehow, you can devote a portion of your time to God.
Living in extreme poverty should not be the reason we don’t serve God. There is always so much that you can do to add value to the Kingdom of God. I know of a person who used to wake up every Sunday morning to clean the church toilets and make sure everything is in order before the Sunday service commenced. Such zeal and passion for the house of the Lord is commendable.
Giving God’s way
In this 21st century, as believers, we might find it difficult to offer a tithe of mint, tithe of herds, or grain offerings unto the Lord as it’s not everyone who is into farming or rearing livestock for a living. Most of us can only afford to contribute money during our church services as we are either formally employed or involved in some business ventures which gives us an income.
God knows how much or how little you have. You can give according to your ability and on your own accord. Remember God looks at the intentions behind our actions and our hearts more than the action we perform (1 Samuel 16:7).
Do you remember the story of the poor widow? She gave from her heart all she had because of her commitment and love for God.
Who should give? The short answer is, all believers should give to the Lord. Giving is a privilege and responsibility for those who have received from God, the gift of eternal life.
Giving should be an offering of gratitude to God, part of our service to Him, and a person outside of God can not properly give such an offering. True giving from the heart comes as we first give ourselves to the Lord, then we will give our financial resources as we should (2 Corinthians 8:5).
If you struggle to give your tithes and offering to God, it may be that you have not fully submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, making him your Lord and Savior. When you obey the Lord in other areas of your life, it won’t be difficult to obey him in your finances too.
You may need to take time to reflect on the condition of your heart. Does God have the first place in your life or you’re putting your trust and faith in money? Money can never save your life or secure eternal life for you. Hold it loosely in God’s hands.
Another important fact to remember about tithing is that it’s God who gives us the wisdom, strength, and opportunities to make money.
Giving is to be done in secret and not as a way of showing off what we have.
Six Wrong Motives for Giving
(1) Pride: God reminds us that every good thing comes from Him (James 1:16-17). You should never seek self-gratification or give because you feel you have too much to give, rather be humble and be grateful for God loves a cheerful giver. Needless to remind you ”pride goes before a fall”.
(2) Guilty: Never give because you feel guilty about having so much or you are very much concerned about other people’s opinions. Remember it’s always between you and God.
(3) Greed: Your relationship with God should never be transactional, don’t expect some form of profit or gain out of your giving. The right motivation should be: the more you are generous, the more others will be generous towards you.
(4) Pressure: Many Christians succumb to the high-pressure antics used by some denominations when doing fundraisings during services. It is wrong to be consumed by such pressure because you might end up finding yourself in unnecessary debt (2 Corinthians 9:7). Indeed, God loves a “cheerful giver.”
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(5) Gimmicks: Such as those used by the so-called modern-day charismatic preachers. People may be promised anointed wristbands and special anointing oils meant to protect them from all forms of evil, after donating the house of God. Those are pure gimmicks and one should never fall for such tricks. Ask yourself if that is biblical in any way or if it’s ”another gospel” mentioned by Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8-10.
(6) Power: Money has always been associated with power since ages ago. However, at no point should money have a spiritual influence on the local church. Church leaders should seek guidance from the Holy Spirit when choosing leadership, it should not be about who gives the most or who dresses well. God is not pleased by one’s outside appearance but, He seeks the heart. (Acts 8:18-24)
Tithing in the Bible is such an important topic. It’s an act of obedience to God. By tithing and giving generously to the house of the living God, we attract the blessing of the Lord which is promised in the scriptures. The love of God shown by sending his only Son Jesus Christ compels us to give.
Seek biblical guidance concerning giving and always pray that your heart is right before God. Have a clear conscience and right motives for giving and God will be glorified and pleased with your service. Invest in God’s work and your heart will always be concerned with the things of God. The strength and opportunities to make money come from God and he asks us for only 10% of what he gives us. We are stewards of his gifts and blessings and as we make tithing the most important thing, prayers will be answered, doors opened and blessings will overflow that are more than we can ever think or ask for.
You may enjoy this video from John MacArthur as he explains What is Biblical tithing?
Or one of these recommended resources on tithing in the Bible:
In the Order of Melchizedek: The Truth about Tithing in the New Testament by Emeka Jude Icheku
Tithing by R.T. Kendall
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