Encounter 3 lesson 4

THE PRINCIPLE OF TITHING

LESSON 4

Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. It is estimated that just about 20% of Christians tithe regularly.If this is true, then there is a probability that 80% of Christians feel uncomfortable with this subject, yet tithing was essentially meant to be a routine exercise.

Although some churches over-emphasize the subject, by and large tithing is meant to be a joyful exercise that is laden with overflowing blessings.

  1. i. A Tithe is ten percent (10%) of one’s gross income

The tithe is that tenth of our income that we give to God. This is from the Hebrew “maaser” or “maasrah,” which is translated tenth, or tenth part. It literally means a payment or giving or receiving of the tenth.

One of the most common questions people ask about tithing is whether one should ‘tithe from net or gross income’. God’s expectation is quite explicit:

Leviticus 27:30

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord…”

Note: “The tithe principle is this; “He gives unto us, we give back to Him one-tenth of all that He has blessed us with.” (Eddie Cude)

  1. The tithe is a holy portion that belongs to God

In the creation process, it is recorded that God was singularly involved at the beginning of creation.

Leviticus 27:30- 32

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod — will be holy to the Lord.”

iii. The tithe is the minimum we can give to the Lord

It is the starting point in giving. This is expected from everyone, irrespective of whether you are generous or not! Contrary to popular belief that tithing originates from the Levitical law; the practice of tithing preceded the law. Thus, any thought of considering it among the Old Testament legalistic practices is far from the truth. What we see from Scripture is a development of this practice from Abraham, then regularized in the Levitical laws, and continued into the times of Jesus.

  1. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High.

The first tithe recorded in Scripture was given by Abram to Melchizedek the priest, without any compulsion and long before the law was given to the Israelites:

Genesis 14:17-20

“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley)…

… Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

It is certain that by Abraham’s time the giving of tithes had been recognized as a holy deed. Though the tithe was not required, it was given out of hearts filled with gratitude for God’s blessings and His faithfulness.

iii. Jacob willingly offered to tithe in return of God’s protection and provision

Genesis 28:20-22

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

iii. God designated the tithes as an inheritance to the Levites (the priests)

Numbers 18:23-24

“It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites”.

  1. The house of God was replenished by the tithes of His people

Malachi 3:10

“Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.” (The Message Translation)

  1. Tithing was practiced even during the days of Christ

Matthew 23:23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Whereas we see the Patriarchs tithing without any prompting, it is evident that clear tithing guidelines emerged at the advent of the law. What emerges however, is not necessarily a ‘law of tithing’ but more of ‘guidelines of tithing’. It is more like mainstreaming a regular practice.

i.God expected the best of everything to be given as a tithe

Numbers 18:29-32

“You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’ “Say to the Levites: ‘When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting. By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.’

ii.The tithe was to be taken into the storehouse in the Temple

In 2 Chronicles 31: 5-12, the children of Israel do what’s right under the reign of

Hezekiah, and bring the tithes to the designated places.

In Nehemiah 10: 37 – 39, Israel obeys God and brings the tithes to the storehouse.

“Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our [grain] offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and oil to the storerooms where the articles for the sanctuary are kept and where the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the singers stay. “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

In Nehemiah 12:44, Officers are appointed to watch over the tithes in the storehouse;

and in Malachi 3:10, the Israelites are commanded to bring tithes in the storehouse.

Implication:

Tithes are not to be given to individual servants of God but should be taken in God’s house, where you worship regularly.

iii.No one was exempted from tithing

Even the Levites were required to tithe whatever they had received as ‘tithes’! They gave a tithe of tithes to the priests (Numbers 18:26 – 28; Nehemiah 10:38 – 39).

Implication:

Even those who earn from the tithes of God’s people (like pastors and other church workers) are also expected to tithe. The church too is expected to give a ‘tithe of tithes’.

iv.No substitution of the tithe was permitted

In the selection of tithes from the livestock, whatever was the tenth was given for tithe with no option of replacement.

Leviticus 27: 32- 33

“The entire tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod — will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.”

v.A redemption penalty of 20% was imposed for any exchange of the tithe

Leviticus 27:30- 32:

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod — will be holy to the Lord.”

vi.Each Hebrew was compelled to make a declaration of honesty before the Lord

This was essentially to guard against deceit or unfaithfulness not only in regard to tithing but also in regard to other commands given by the Lord.

Deuteronomy 26:13-15

“Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead…

…I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me. Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

viii.Refusal or failure to tithe was regarded as robbery against God.

Malachi 3: 8-9

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me.”

Someone has rightly said ‘it would be better to rob the First National Bank than to rob the bank of Heaven’!

Why should we tithe today?

As it was in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until now, tithing brings enormous benefits to the giver and to the church of Christ. It is critical to note that:

i.The consequences of not tithing were, and still remain catastrophic.

Malachi 3:9

‘You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me.’

In robbing God, the people were not fulfilling the covenant they had made with the Lord. Therefore, God couldn’t fulfil His promise which he had set out in Leviticus 26:3-4:

“‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.”

Whenever we rob God, we always deprive ourselves of the spiritual blessings that always accompany obedience and faithful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). Moreover, the money that rightfully belongs to God that we hoard for ourselves never stays with us. It ends up going to the medical bills, the garage, the traffic police, etc. Things just keep happening, and we have no choice but to expend!

Haggai 1: 6;

“You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

ii.Tithing paves way for an overflow of blessings.

Malachi 3: 10, 12

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it…. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.”

People who tithe faithfully bear witness that whatever is leftover goes much farther and brings much greater blessing. The heavenly floodgates are real.

iii.Tithing provides an opportunity to dare God.

It is mind boggling that God would invite mortals to ‘test Him’!

Malachi 3:10

‘…Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it….’

Giving is an act of faith and God rewards that faith in every way. Hence, in giving we lay up treasures in heaven, which in turn pay rich dividends for all eternity.

iv.The need for the tithes still exists in the church today

We still have ministers of the gospel who serve fully in the house of God; we have people that need our help, and now, more than ever, there is an outstanding need to spread the gospel far and wide. In the early church this need was met by ‘wholesome’ contributions and sharing by the believers.

Acts 4:33-35

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

v.Jesus affirmed that tithing should not be neglected.

Matthew 23:23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Here, Jesus does not rebuke the Pharisees for tithing, but for ‘not obeying the weightier matters of the law along with tithing’. He admonishes them to pursue both tithing and matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.

vi.Giving according to one’s income is expected.

Our giving is only a portion of what the Lord has given us. Hence, it should be systematic and in line with how much we earn.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2

“Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

Whereas Paul does not mention tithe or the percentage that one was to give here, it is clear that the believers were to give a portion of their weekly wages to meet the needs of both the local church and the mother church in Jerusalem.

Given the raging debate that has clouded the subject of tithing, it is necessary to consider some of the arguments and propose a right response. Such arguments include, but are not limited to the following:

i.“The tithe was instituted under the law and we are no longer under the law

Response: The tithe was established before the law (Genesis 14:18-20), regularized within the law, (Leviticus 27:30- 32; Numbers 18:25-28), and validated in the New Testament. Jesus clearly affirms the necessity for people to tithe, while ensuring that they do not neglect the other good works (Matthew 23:23).

ii.The New Testament neither commands nor recommends submission to this legalistic tithe system

Response: Neither does the New Testament abolish tithing.

And since it is not abolished, it stands because both the Old and the New Testament are inspired by God. We are ‘Bible believing’ Christians and the Bible runs from Genesis to Revelation!

iii.We are not bound by the law of tithing since we live in the dispensation of grace.

Response: Whereas it is true that we live under grace, Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it.

Matthew 5:17-20

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

iv.Tithing is trying to arm-twist God to bless us

Response: Whereas it is absolutely true that we cannot box God into blessing us, it is also true that God has established the principles relating to giving and He faithfully honours His principles.

Luke 6:38

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

If the tithing could bear such great fruits under the law, can you imagine how great the results would be under grace?

v.Giving should be a secret between God, and myself and depends on personal decision and generosity

Response 1: It is true that the Bible speaks about giving in ‘secret’:

Matthew 6:2-4

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men…. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

However, this statement specifically refers to the giving of alms and is essentially concerned about the ‘ill motives’ that can emerge from the giving.

Response 2: Saying that the New Testament just requires ‘generous giving’ is like seeking to build a mansion on sand!

If you find it difficult to give just 10% of your income, you will find it impossible to exercise ‘generosity’ and ‘free will’.

What are the Indisputable Facts about the Tithe?

i.The tithe of your produce and all that comes into your possession belongs to God

(Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:22-29)

ii.The tithe was called “The Lord’s Tithe”

Essentially, it belonged to the Lord and was holy to Him just as was His chosen people (Leviticus 27:30)

iii.Tithes are not exclusively for ministers/pastors

Apart from the Levites, the tithes were meant to meet the needs of aliens, the poor, the needy, the fatherless, and the widows. They also financed religious celebrations and national feasts.

iv.We are fully indebted to God for all that we earn.

Consequently, we are “… obliged to make all possible returns of love and gratitude to the Lord Jesus for all the rich and royal favours we receive from him, to pay our homage and subjection to him as our King…. (Matthew Henry, 2006; Biblesoft)

Hebrews 7:5-8

“Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people — that is, their brothers — even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living”.

v.In the New Testament, tithing is apparently assumed to be the normal practice of believers

The principle of generosity and the grace of giving prominent in the epistles does not in any way indicate a replacement of tithing (2 Corinthians 8, 9; 1 Timothy 5:17-18, 6:17-19).

This principle actually suggests giving over and above what was already required.

No wonder Paul says some, like the Macedonian churches, gave even beyond their abilities:

2 Corinthians 8:2-4

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

vi.Tithing does not preclude offerings

  • Offering is another way of giving in addition to tithing that is quite prominent in the Bible. Both tithes and offerings are expected (Leviticus 1-7).
  • The general idea in offerings is the freedom to give beyond and without reference to the requirements of the tithe. Offerings are over and above the tithes.

Exodus 20:24

“Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.”

Exodus 35:29

“All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do.”

Implication:

Based on these facts, tithing should become part and parcel of every Christian life; a discipline to be exercised faithfully without any reservations.

Tithing should not be a joyless obligation but a glorious experience of giving back to the giver of all wealth. Through tithes and offerings we find an avenue of expressing appreciation, reverence and praise to the Lord, who generously gives to all people.

All tithes and offerings ought to be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. The tithe was, and is, and shall ever be holyunto the Lord. As Jesus would say; “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

  • CLASS DISCUSSION

1.In light of what we have learnt, what should be our attitude towards tithing?

2.Would you share with your group your own experiences that you may attribute to your ‘tithing’ or ‘failure to tithe’?

3.What do you think our church would be like if we all gave our tithes and offerings faithfully?