This passage of Moses giving the law to Israel a second time as a reminder before he died and they entered The Promised Land without him talks about tithes. Can I hear laptop lids closing? Can I hear fingers taking readers to browse other sites? Can I hear mind shutters going down to protect you from hearing something that may offend you? Don’t worry. I will not be offending you. Now if you or I are convicted by The Holy Spirit, well that is not up to me. Tithing is actually supposed to be a joyful sacrifice. It is something we do, that supports the Church, the building, body, and the member in more ways than you might expect. Verses 22-23 read,
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
The tithe which was made up of the first fruits of crops of the farmers and the first born of the herds for the herders was to be brought to The Tabernacle in Jerusalem every year and enjoyed together. Why? Was it so The priests could line their pockets or the richest family have a good place in the congregation? No, it was so they would learn to fear the Lord God always.
Coming together and eating, which was part of their worship of offerings, allowed them to fellowship, to get to know each other in a context of relating to The Lord, and helped them remember the purpose for each step of sacrifice. They all had a part in what they were doing. It wasn’t one or two leaders making the plans, they were corporately carrying out the Lord’s commands, each doing the part he had been given, from high priest, to priest, to congregant and sojourner. It was the same for the tithe offering. Once a year they had to bring the best and first of their earnings to devote it to The Lord.
Tithing is not the same today. We don’t bring the firstfruits of our crops or herds for sacrifice and a meal. We bring the first fruits of our earnings, normally in the form of money into the church and give it to church upkeep, beneficence funds, and sometimes salaries for clergy. But we are still supposed to come together to do it. Nowhere, in the Bible can you find someone mailing or sending tithe in by proxy. They come to the Temple, they stay and eat and talk, listen and learn. The tithes and offerings are an important aspect of worship.
The tithe comes with feeling an ownership of what is happening in the church. When you give, you know that the widows are being take care of by the power of God as he uses your money. When you tithe, you know that you have a part in the ministries being done by your church. You care a little more how the money is being spent.
The Promised Land was large, some people would live far from Jerusalem. Bringing all those oxen and sheep, or all those crops would be difficult on a walk that could take days to make. So the law gave them an alternative. They were not excused from bringing the tithe, they just did it differently. Verses 24-27 read,
“And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.”
They turned the tithe into money and when they got to Jerusalem they didn’t purchase the leftover herds for sacrifice. The bought whatever food and drink they wanted and they ate it there together, all of them rejoicing. They had to make sure the Levite from their town enjoyed the food and wine as well, since he had no other way to participate except through the people of the tribe where he lived.
The actual killing of the sacrifices were serious and grave. The blood spilt was not something to gloss over, but after it had been killed and prepared and it was burnt on the altar the sacrifice became joyful meals shared together and provided for everyone because everyone brought their part.
The tithe reminded Israel who God is and that their blessings came from Him by His will. Leviticus 27:30-33 describes the tithe.
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
The Israelites were not supposed to choose which 10%, they were not supposed to decide they could give this up but not that. It was given back to The Lord, it was His as is. He let them have the rest. Do we do that today, do we look at our budget first before we give the tithe? I have to pay these bills and buy this and if there is any left I can give, or Wow I can’t tithe on my gross income, I‘ll let the government take my tithe and I’ll give the second ten percent of the leftovers to God. That is not the tithe, that is an offering with a lie attached.
Jesus fulfilled the law of the tithe. God gave His first born, His only born son, He gave 100% to us, and we accept it freely. Though the law has been fulfilled it is still part of loving the Lord with all our heart soul and strength to give him our firstfruits. 10% is not a requirement. But if Israel without the Holy Spirit, and with shaky inconsistent faith could do it, then can’t we God’s very own children do at least that? God promised that their tithes would come with blessings and provision. Verses 28-29 read,
“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”
Every three years instead of going to Jerusalem, to the Temple, the tithe went to the town. This enabled the towns to be sure to care for the Levite, as well as outsiders traveling through the towns, widows and orphans. Everyone was to partake of the meal and provision. And God said if doing so, being charitable would make their herds and crops, blessed.
Don’t we trust God to be God and provide for us? He doesn’t merely provide, He will bless the work of your hands and give you more. Not tithing is really a statement of no faith in the Lord. If we want to hold onto our money so tightly are we really worshipping the money? Matthew 6:19-24 reads,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Your money can go to the kingdom of God and increase your inheritance in eternity or it can go to your desires on earth and will not even exist 50 years from now. To not be willing to freely give to God what is his already shows you for who you are, perhaps not as dedicated to The Lord as you profess, perhaps not even a worshipper of God but a worshipper of money, wealth, power, or yourself.
There are not many places where God says to test Him, but the tithe is one place where he does. He says, ‘go ahead, let me prove it to you! Obey me and tithe, obey me and give by faith and I will show you it is worth it.’ Malachi 3:10 reads,
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”