Tithing-Full Circle Pt 1
DISCLAIMER: This in a four part series on tithing. The purpose of this it to edify, teach, and give better understanding on how we should and should not tithe. Keep your any disagreements respectful.
So, you've obviously read the disclaimer above. I won't repeat that, but I will say, again, this is to learn about the original biblical context of tithing. Some might learn from me, and I will learn from those who wish to comment. Tithing has always been a very debated subject among the body of Christ. I'm not trying to fuel to any fires anywhere, but I just want to bring some biblical context from the OT so we can all ponder, and eventually benefit from. So here we go.
What I recently discovered is that there are three different tithes located in the OT. So let's explore each one separately before making an overall observation.
Leviticus 27:30 (Lord’s Tithe)
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.
Deuteronomy 14:22-27 (Festival Tithe)
“Each year you are to set aside a tenth of all the produce grown in your fields. You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of Yahweh your God at the place where He chooses to have His name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the LORD your God. But if the distance is too great for you to carry it, since the place where Yahweh your God chooses to put His name is too far away from you and since the LORD your God has blessed you, then exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place the LORD your God chooses. You may spend the money on anything you want: cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or anything you desire. You are to feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your family. Do not neglect the Levite within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance among you."
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (Poor Tithe)
“At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work”.
Observation 1: Out of the 3 tithes noted above, only one of them was set apart as holy to God. That scripture is quite clear to all. What I find interesting, however, is what God actually did with the tithe. Let’s look at Numbers 18:20-21, 24 where it reads “And the Lord said to Aaron, “You priests will receive no allotment of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your share and your allotment. 21As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel. 24Because 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.”
God used all the tithes collected from the tribes of Israel and gave a portion (or all of it) to the Levites because they had no actual inheritance from God. All the other tribes of Israel received land as their inheritance; the Levites didn’t, so God cared for them using the tithe. This is very incredible, as it actually symbolizes what the tithe, or any tithe for that matter, should be used for.
Observation 2: The bible doesn’t use money as the tool of the tithe here in these passages. It plainly refers to produce; items grown in the fields (grains, wine, and oils) of farmers, as well as livestock (sheep, cattle). These items were considered the tithe. Even though there was a form of currency in the OT, money was not the commodity used for tithing.
Observation 3: The only time money was used in the reference of tithing is in Deuteronomy 14:25-26. Money is stated specifically here (I’ll come back to this later). What’s interesting is what God told his people to do with the money. In this passage of scripture, He didn’t tell his people to tithe using money. He told His people to take the money received from exchanging the produce and livestock and carry it with them to the place where God told them to fellowship collectively. He then told them to use it to purchase whatever they desired (cattle, sheep, wine, etc) and, actually eat (and drink) the tithe with what was purchased. The bible says to feast collectively in the presence of God and rejoice with family. This could be considered a sign to be happy and thankful with what God has blessed you with.
We see from these passages of scripture what the tithe actually was. Some might argue that this is how it was in the beginning, and that times have changed. I still, however, haven’t located a scripture in the bible that says money is to be used for giving vice produce from the land (in the OT). Let’s look at the primary scripture that a lot of modern day churches use to teach tithing.
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!” You ask: “How do we rob You?”“By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the LORD of Hosts.
This is the firm foundation of what many churches use to teach tithing. Before we assume that we truly know this scripture, let me ask a few questions.
1. What if I told you that the context of how you were taught this scripture wasn't accurate?
2. What if I told you from a biblical context standpoint that God wasn't talking to the entire church in this scripture, only a select few?
3.What if I told you that money still isn't the commodity for tithing in this scripture?
4. What does it mean when this scripture mentions the storehouse?
All these questions are immensely important to the biblical context of this often quoted, and misused, scripture. Come back for Part 2.
Grace and Peace.