Thursday, October 6, 2016

To Tithe Or Not To Tithe

Bible Gems #283

Question: Can you point me in the right direction biblically about tithing? How much do we tithe; how do we know that we are supposed to tithe money; what if I can’t afford to tithe; and was the purpose of tithing to support the church or to provide a sacrifice for God?

Let’s take these questions one at a time, but mix up the order a little.

How Do We Know That We Are Supposed To Tithe Money?
The Scripture says:
         Prov. 3:9            Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce

“Produce” refers to the material return we get for our labor, whether money or anything else:
         2Chr. 31:5-6  As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps.

How Much Do We Tithe?
The English word “tithe” means “the tenth.” It translates the Old Testament Hebrew word “ma’aser” and the New Testament Greek word “dekate’,” both of which mean “the tenth.”[i] Tithe and tenth are interchangeable.

Tithing is giving God the first 10% (“firstfruits”) of our income, not the leftovers. Of course, where there is no income (“produce”) there is nothing to tithe.

Was The Purpose Of Tithing To Support The Church Or To Provide A Sacrifice For God?
Actually, both are true. Tithing is God’s plan for how His ministers get paid:
Num. 18:21  I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.

In fact, tithing is God’s plan for supporting not only the priests & Levites (pastors and paid ministers), but also the ministries (worship and spiritual instruction), and the place where these ministries are centralized (Temple / Church facility):
         Deut. 12:11 Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.

In tithing according to God’s Word, we actually become those who receive the blessing in the end:
Mal. 3:10  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 there will not be room enough to store it.

Above all, tithing is a sacrifice to God that reminds us that, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). We own nothing because God owns it all; we are simply managers or stewards of what belongs to Him. Yet, even though that’s true, God entrusts to us 90% of what belongs to Him and asks only 10% in return!

[i] J. D. Douglas, Merrill C. Tenney, The New International Dictionary Of The Bible (Grand Rapids, 1987)

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