Doctrinal Distinctives: Tithing

Not many areas are as contentious as tithing due to the fact that no other area hits us squarely in our pocketbook as tithing certainly does. We are a self-motivated people and those motivations are seen the clearest when the issue of tithing comes up. It is of the utmost importance that we tackle this subject however because very few areas of the bible have as far-reaching consequences as this area does because God himself has placed an incredibly heavy emphasis on it.

The exact reason why God stressed the tithe so adamantly has been a subject of debate for a long time with men both arguing for and against the tithe. In this teaching, I am not going to attempt to refute every argument; instead I am going to attempt to communicate the revelation that I have gotten on this to you rather than just more information.

The foundation of tithing is found in two places before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. In Genesis 14, Abraham returns from the Battle of the Kings and gives tithes of all to the priest Melchizedek:

“And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” Genesis 14: 16-20

This is the first evidence of pre-law tithing found in scripture. It also holds consequences for us today in that it is the portion of tithing directly referenced in the New Testament (Heb. 7:5-9). Later we find Jacob making a promise to God that in return for his support, Jacob would give God a tithe of everything (Gen. 28: 20-22). He did not do this as a requirement because Jacob’s life was lived before God gave the law to Israel. But we still see an important theme being played out that supersedes law and that is, God’s people tithe what they owe to God whether they are under the law or apart from law.

Before we go any further, I think that due to the overwhelmingly antinomian attitudes of today’s church, I need to make some distinctions. Firstly, the usage of the term “the law” has to be understood in context. When someone says to you that they “are not under the law”, it would be good to ask them which law they mean exactly. There were three specific divisions of the law; the ceremonial law (gave you righteousness if perfectly followed), the civil law (rules for behavior in Israel) and the moral law (rules for righteous behavior towards others). Out of the three, it was the ceremonial law which Christ fulfilled. The civil law is the foundation of modern law in general and no one in their right mind would argue that we have no need for laws of the land, right? And the moral law was perfectly exhibited in the behavior of Christ and still serves as a guide to our lives and behaviors now.

The antinomian premise that all three aspects of the law were perfectly fulfilled by Christ and imputed to us is just plain dangerous. Should we say that it is okay to murder our neighbor because Christ bore the punishment for murder and has imputed his righteousness to us? Absolutely not.

We say that tithing was not included in the ceremonial law of the Old Testament but was instead a principle falling under the moral law. The reason why we say this is because the moral law is about the duties that we owe to man, as the elect people of God. God has no use for your dollar but he is very interested in your acts of sowing and reaping and your care for others. This is the heart of the commandment to tithe and is the reason why God felt it necessary to tell the people that they had robbed him by not giving what was due (Mal 3:7-12).

Let’s look at the specifics of what tithing was about. Firstly, there were three tithes in the Torah and also the tithe of a tithe, which fell on the priests. The first, called the Lord’s tithe, consisted of the 10% of the harvest that went to support the priests and Levites since they were given no inheritance of land. (Numbers 18:21) Then there was a 2nd tithe on the remaining 90% that the people consumed themselves each year at the Feast of Tabernacles in a nationwide celebration of God’s provision. (Deut. 14:22-27) It was called the Festival tithe. The 3rd tithe was the tithe for the poor. It was given every third year to help the poor and indigent. (Deut 14:28-29).

So for those who take issue with giving God ten percent, just be glad you were not an Israelite, paying 29-30% in tithes in some years.

The first tithe is what we are going to focus on in this article, the one called The Lord’s Tithe and that was for the support of his priests:

“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” Numbers 18: 20-24

So, the priests had no inheritance with the other tribes and did not supply for themselves because they were especially consecrated to serve the Lord with their time and talents. For anyone raising the objection of the unfairness of this due to the priesthood of all believers, see the previous section article entitled “Doctrinal Distinctives: Priesthood”. This idea of inheritance is important in what we are talking about regarding the necessity of the New Testament tithe for exactly this reason. These priests spent their entire lives in service to both God and man and for that reason, God declared that it was the moral obligation of the congregation to support them with 10% of what they had. No doubt had God not included this in the moral law, these priests would have been left to their own and been forced to offer their services for next to nothing.

I say this because it is stated that 90% (that is 9 out of 10 for those of you in Rio Linda) of people who start out in today’s ministry do not retire as ministers.

And so in the Old Testament God built protections into his system so that his priests could minister to the people without fear of starvation, eviction or crippling poverty. God even went so far with this protective cover that he equates the withholding of tithes to robbing himself.

“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal 3:7 -12

The tithe was not meant to provide lights, pay mortgages, fill up building funds or be continuously rolled over in a savings account for the congregational needs. The tithe was designed for the support of the priests and their families, period. Any needs of the congregation or the temple were collected through freewill offerings above the tithe itself (Exodus 36:1-7). And when Israel was asked to provide these extra funds for the work of the temple, they gave so much that they had to actually stop the giving because it was too much! That is a good problem to have!

Today most churches stress a tithe but its usage has been bastardized to build buildings and pay light bills. This is of critical importance because if the original intent of God has been compromised, we cannot expect God to keep his promise of supply. He promises in Malachi that if you bring the tithes into the storehouse (if it is inconvenient to give tithes of your cows, sheep, corn and grapes, it is perfectly alright to turn it into money according to Deuteronomy) he will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing until you don’t have enough room to contain it. Not only that but he promises that if you bring your tithe to supply for your priest, he will rebuke the devourer for your sake and your harvest will not be touched by the enemy.

Some teach that the Old Testament requirement was to tithe 10%, but since Christ we are to give our all. This is incorrect doctrine. The number ten represents the whole, and when we give our 10% we are giving our all. If we are not tithing it is not only willful disobedience but an outward showing of the condition of our own hearts. The WORD talks about a people who say they love Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Isn’t this the evidence of hardened hearts today? Many say; ‘I love the Lord’ (but) don’t ask me to give my money to make preachers rich, don’t ask me to spend gas money to get to Church Service. Or how about this one; I will give to God after I pay off the credit card, the loan, or buy my computer, boat, car – or whatever. “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage”. Exodus 22:29

There is no mention of I.O.U.’s here, it is always Him first.

The purpose of the first tithe was to set right the neglect of the things of our spirits. For when we give it is a sign that our spirits are right with God. When we do not give the tithe, our hearts are not with Him. The first tithe was to go to the Levites who taught the people the Torah and what to do. God said this tithe belonged to the Levites as an inheritance in return for their work. This was an ordinance to them forever. The Levites then tithed from what they were given. Today whoever is ministering to the congregation by delegated authority of those above him in the Lord and ministering in both word and doctrine, they are the true Levites and priests today (Ezekiel 44: 23,24).

“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors-teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. Ephesians 4:11

The true teachers of the WORD are the priests today. Scripture is clear, not everyone is a teacher, though many could teach. Not everyone is a prophet, though many can prophesy etc…

This is where our tithe and offerings reside. God called the tithe a lasting commandment throughout our generations. This tribute we give becomes the commitment in our hearts. We are not to take some of the tithe and place it over here and put some of it over there, doing with it as we please. This is like church hopping and reflects a double mindedness. Just because you believe what you’re doing is correct, doesn’t make it right. We must verify if our idea lines up with the Word, if it doesn’t the issue is with US and we need to change.

Personal preference over God’s principles can stop the flow of support for Christ’s work and His priesthood; and without a priesthood, the temple falls. Here lies the fundamental question; do we want to do things HIS way or elevate our opinion above His word? If we chose to do that, we transfer into the traditions of men and the Spirit goes somewhere else. What we sow, we will reap (Ezekiel 43:6-7, 10,11; 44:23,24)

We are to understand that the tithe is for our benefit, they are holy. After the people give the tithe to the priest, then the priest gives a tithe and offers up a ‘heave offering’ and God receiving it brings forth the blessings of abundance. How we handle the tithes and offerings determines our inheritance both physically and spiritually.

The tithe of a tithe is the principle that when you give your tithe for the support of a priest, he then takes a tithe of that and distributes that. When he does this, the anointing of increase falls on everyone that gave. We can see this played out with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Someone brought for the supply of the priest, he thanked God, broke it and gave. When he did, everyone experienced abundance, to the point that the 12 disciples each had a basketful of their own. How exciting!

We can break all of this down as follows:

You give God 10% of what you make, without fail.

This goes to supply for the priest (the gift of God to you according to Ephesians 4).

The priest then gives a tithe of a tithe and releases abundance to everyone.

In addition, you should also put aside 10% for a huge party at the end of the year so that we can all celebrate God’s blessings. If you want steak, buy steak. If you want lamb shanks, buy those. If you want single malt scotch or expensive wine, feel free! Really, it’s in the WORD. Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

Also, you should tithe the increase of what you get each year. So, if last year you made $50,000 and this year you make $90,000 then you would tithe $9,000 to the priest, set aside $9,000 for vacation and then according to the moral law, you need to set aside an additional $4,000 (the increase from last year) and make your vacation even greater!

This is because God both knows that if you tithe, you will increase and because he wants you to be sure to set money aside and pay yourself and have some enjoyment.

Some of you may very well say, “I can’t afford to tithe, I am barely making it now!” To this, God says that if you were to tithe and the proper system was in place to receive it God’s way, you would always have more than enough and wealth and riches would be in your house.

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