(13 references in the Bible)
Gen 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
Gen 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
Gen 14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
I suppose, when it comes to discussing the tithe, that we must start at the beginning. In Gen 14, we see two things that should be of interest to us:
1. That Melchizedek initiated the “bread and wine” of communion in honor of Abraham.
2. That Abraham gave a tithe of all that he had taken, lest some claim to have favored Abraham, and made him rich through the tithe.
The “tithe” in Gen. 14 was given in response to the communion of victory that Melchizedek initiated. It was also in response to the blessing that Melchizedek bestowed upon him. The picture here is that the Lord blesses us, and we give to him that which we know He has given to us! It seems, to the human mind, a bit redundant to give from what He gives us, but the beauty of the whole scene is the communion that we have with Christ. The Lord shows, in many ways, that a little bit can do a lot when it is given with a pure heart. So, here one might see the establishment of the tithe, and the “why” behind it. Everything the Lord does has reason, and that includes the tithe.
Sometimes the reason is for teaching; sometimes it is for celebration (as here); and sometimes it for reasons perhaps unknown to us, but not without merit. The tithe was for Israel, God’s chosen people. It was an important part of their worship, showing that God is greater than man, and is worthy of all our attentions. This is the first reference to the tithe in the Bible. It foreshadowed things to come in the structure of the church.
The next reference is in Leviticus 27:30:
Lev 27:30 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 unto the LORD.
Here we find that God has sanctified the tithe, and “It is holy”. Abraham seems to have impressed God greatly with the tithe, and the Lord adapted it into His law; it remains a tribute to the righteousness of God, and the subjection of man to His will. Verse 32 carries it a little further:
Lev 27:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
The tithe covered everything that is important to man, the fruit of the land, and the wealth of the livestock. It becomes a sacrifice.
Mans sustenance, all that he has, (Gen. 14:20) was what the Lord has allowed him, and the tithe the Lord kept for Himself. Some refute the tithe because our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He has no need of a tithe, but in so doing, they question the veracity of the Lord, and His Word, and dishonor Him by holding back that which is holy unto Him. Though they tithed of crops and livestock, our culture today tithes of monetary gain, as well as the proper stewardship of all we have.
In Numbers 18:26 we have another reference to the tithe:
“Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.”
First, we have here an explanation of what the tithe was for. God had given it to the Levites instead of an inheritance in Israel. He demanded a tithe from the people, and passed it on to the Levites, much of what we do today in the church. Remember the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come, it was a picture of God dealing with His people, and today, if we are born from above, we are His people. In Numbers 18:23, we have the duty of the Levites, and the expression that they shall have no inheritance among the children of Israel. Several verses in that text reiterate the purpose of the tithe.
Here is a reference that deserves consideration in Deut. 12:11 :
Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
Doesn’t this sound as if it could also refer to the church? Is not the church a “place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there”? He is providing a place for us today also called “the church“ and is specific in what we are to bring there. Now that is not “smoking gun” proof, I realize, but let us continue our study:
“And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.”
An interesting verse indeed; here, the Lord is again very specific as to what the tithe is, and more so He offers the real and best reason behind the tithe--“That thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always” (Note the word “always”) The tithe is to glorify the Lord always.
“Always” means forever, every generation, till the end of time; it was given to the Jew, because the Gentiles were heathen and had no part in the things of God, but it was for all of God’s children everywhere, and in every age. If this were not true, we make God a liar in saying that it is “forever”, do we not? We must all ask ourselves why we don’t want to tithe, or rather why we don’t believe the tithe is God’s forever. Giving back 10% is not easy for any of us, but the investment is well worth the sacrifice. In the text of Deut. 14, we see more about the blessing of the tithe (v. 29), and verse 28 speaks of a special tithe of the land to be brought every third year. If the tithe is too much to be easily transported, the Levites were to exchange it for money, but money was only conditional concerning the tithe. Most of the “average” people were poor, and lived off the land and the livestock that the Lord had supplied them, so money was not as prominent in their societies as it is in our culture today, but a tithe is still a tithe.
In 2 Chronicles 31:5 we read as follows:
“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.”
The command here spoken of referred to the portion of the tithe that was to be given to the priests and Levites. The abundance of the peoples first-fruits was given insomuch as they had far more than was needed. God had blessed them abundantly, and they in turn were to be a blessing to the priests and Levites so that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord. “Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD” (v. 4). So, the tithe was also given for encouraging the full time workers of the Lord.
Nehemiah dealt with the tithe also:
Neh 10:35 And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:
Neh 10:36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
Neh 10:37 And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
Neh 10:38 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
The Levites were not exempt from tithing, they were to tithe from the tithe they received from the people of God. The church follows this same pattern today, that the tithe would not be ignored, but remain in perpetuity as the Lord commanded Israel. The dispensationalists of today have a prOBlem with this, and separate the nation of Israel from the children of God today, but we are all spiritual Jews in the eyes of the Lord (read Galatians 3). The Levites did not tithe to themselves, but to the Lord that His work might continue without interruption.
New Testament Tithing
As already mentioned several times, the tithe was perpetual, an everlasting honor, if you will, to the Lord as well as a token of thanksgiving and an encouragement to those who live off the tithes and offerings of the congregations. They continue to supply the needs that otherwise would overwhelm the church, and the gates of hell then could prevail against it. Thirteen times in the Old Testament we have seen the tithe mentioned, and only two mentions in the Gospels, but they are not without significance until you throw out the instruction and principle of the Old Testament, which is what the dispensationalist seems to want to do.
In Matt. 23:23 we have one of two references to tithing in the New Testament.
Here and Luke 11:42 say virtually the same thing:
Mat 23:23 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Luk 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
The last line says it all, “…And not left the other undone.” Our Lord is admonishing them to keep on tithing of the things mentioned, and not to leave them undone. The Pharisee’s still paid tithes, and they were not rebuked for doing so, the fact is, they were encouraged to keep doing it! I know that to some, the New Testament grace has not yet been ushered in, but again, the dispensationalist must interpret this in a way to make it fit because many do not want to tithe!
The lack of any mention other than this is not a valid argument. Since the church is different than the tabernacle, and functions differently in some areas, the lack of the word “tithe” becomes questionable to many. In 1 Cor. 8 we find some interesting evidences of giving by percentage.
2Co 8:13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
2Co 8:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
So that one brother is not overburdened, the Lord does not ask them to give excessively, but equally. The only way they can give equally is to give a percentage. Ten percent is ten percent for everyone, and is no more of a burden for a rich man than for a poorer man. Verse 15, the next verse, shows us that the Old testament principles are applicable in the New Testament too. Here is what v. 15 says:
2Co 8:15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
You may recall that this statement was made concerning the Israelites and the gathering of manna, as the Lord provided. (Exodus 16, read entire text) Note that the last verse qualifies the matter with “an omer is the tenth part of an ephah” (That which they used to dole it out). The tenth part, this is the meaning of “tithe” it means “tenth”. They measured out a tenth of an ephah for each man, and double on the day before the Sabbath. If any of us would have applied this verse the way that Paul did, we would hear from a dozen people that we took it out of context! Again, let me say, the Old testament supports the New.
Though the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians is speaking of charitable giving and not tithing specifically, we can glean some information from these instances. They gave out of love; love should be the reason we give also. They gave in faith; faith must apply to tithing as well. If we cannot trust God to keep His promises to us, we are of all men most miserable. We should see the need of the church, and understand that it takes money to make things happen as they should, and out of love for the work, we ought to tithe. I believe that those who do not tithe are too self-centered to exercise faith in giving, and do not fully trust their Lord as they might think they do.
Most of us know that you will not find a “chapter and verse” for New Testament tithing, but there are very strong implications, for instance:
Paul said he could take pay as a full time worker, but chose not to (1 Cor. 9:6). How could he have been paid if the church did not tithe?
1Co 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
I find it strange that Paul would apply this Old testament verse to New Testament support, don’t you?
We finish this passage with the following:
1Co 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
1Co 9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
1Co 9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
1Co 9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
1Co 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
1Co 9:15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
If the church was not expected to tithe, Paul’s words would be meaningless. This idea of giving according to your own whim would not work because most of us do not easily part with our “hard earned” money. Most non-tithers do not give enough to support the ministry in any fashion. His heart is not on tithing:
Psa. 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
The non-tither is doing things his way, and not God’s way:
Pro 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Though the verses immediately above have little, or nothing to do with tithing, they do show human nature, which often dictates what we want, and not necessarily what we should do. I think you get my point.
Take a look at this verse:
2Co 8:12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
Our giving is not according to whether we have the money or not, but to equal giving, which, as stated before, demands a percentage giving. Ten percent it what the Lord has commanded in the past, and it is carried over into the church age, or present. (reference given earlier)
The command and promise of Luke 6:38 still applies today:
Luk 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
What would a discourse on tithing be without quoting that time-tested verse, MalachI 3:10?
“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.”
The promise is for tithers, and is just as valid as any promise that the Lord gives unto man. Many refute this verse, and say it does not apply to the church, but as we have seen, the church is the “storehouse” where the tithe is brought and distributed from, it is the direct image of things to come. Prove God, and see if it isn’t so. He has opened the windows of heaven, and poured out many blessings in my life, and I am convinced that He will do the same in yours.
The New Testament reference in 2 Corinthians 9, though it has more to do with charitable giving, proves the accuracy of this verse.
2Co 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
2Co 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
Some take issue with the phrase “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart. So let him give”, they allow this to be the standard for giving of tithes, and any other means of giving. Don’t we know that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) and none can really know how much? The purpose if their heart in this verse means having the right attitude for giving, as the last part of the verse clarifies. We are to give out of a good motive, a motive of love, and not necessarily out of command or any other rule or emotion. It does not mean let him give whatever he wants to give for that week or month, else he would always find excuse not to tithe. We need to quit looking for “loopholes” in the law, and in the commands of God; a loophole is merely unbelief in disguise, and affords many excuses to go contrary to the Lord’s will and the Word of God. Finally, cultures change; methods change, but Principle does not change, it stands firm, as the rock of Gibraltar, because it is founded on The Rock, Christ. Though our culture is different, and our tithe different, the principle remains the same; ten percent (at least) belongs to God, and we ought to be glad that we have it to give.