Occasionally I speak with people who are having financial problems. I ask them two questions at the beginning. Do you tithe? Do you have a budget? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then I know where to start.
A tithe is one tenth. So tithing is giving 10% of your income to your local church. Some people think that tithing is a part of the Mosaic law, and no longer applicable to Christian practice.
I. Before the Law
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.
Abraham , who was earlier called Abram, gave a tithe to Melchizedek. This is the first place in scripture where it is recorded that a servant of God gave a tithe to a religious leader. Abraham lived 500 years before the law was given. Tithing predates the Law.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Jacob, who later became known as Israel, also declared his intention to practice tithing. It was his response of gratitude for the provision of the Lord. He had left home with the clothes on his back and the staff in his hand. God provided for him throughout his time away and he returned home twenty years later, a wealthy man.
II. The Law
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”
Israel was primarily an agricultural society and so the tithe was described in terms of seed, fruit and flocks. The principle of giving a tenth of our income is easily enough applied to a cash society.
III. The Prophets
“Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try 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 such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
In these verses are a warning and a promise. The warning is to those who do not tithe. They are under a curse. This curse may be fulfilled in a wide variety of ways, but the most common is continuing financial hardship. Giving a tithe expresses obedience and trust. Not giving a tithe expresses disobedience and distrust.
The promise is two-fold. God will bless the person who faithfully tithes. This blessing will also be fulfilled in a wide variety of ways. The second promise is that the devourer will be rebuked. Now, what exactly “the devourer” is, is not known for sure, but clearly it is bad. When we give God the tithe, God blesses the remainder so that 90% will go further than 100%. I personally have tithed since I was first introduced to the practice at age 16 and God has always taken good care of my family and I. We have never been wealthy, but our needs, and many of our wants have been met throughout the years.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Here Jesus is rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting justice, mercy and faith, which are more important than tithing. Still, he says that tithing should be done.
IV. The Epistles
I Corinthians 9:4-14
Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? 7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
Paul supported himself by working as a tent-maker. Today many ministers support their families by working a secular job. That is not the way that it is meant to be. Ministers should be able to devote themselves full-time to the work of the ministry. They can only do that if they are supported by the giving of the people they serve.
The principle of tithing predates the law, is established by the law, is confirmed by Jesus, and it’s purpose clarified by Paul. These verses that I have shared are a representation of the scriptures about giving and I believe that they are adequate to support the continued practice of tithing.
These are the notes from a teaching given to the youth group 10/12/14.
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