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Tithing

Part 1 of 5

By Bruce W. Robida

Updated 11-17-09

 

Introduction

Some leaders in the Church have made it difficult, if not impossible, for it’s members to minister to those in need.  In the past, under the old covenant, the Levites were the ministers.  They received tithes and offerings and distributed them to the needy.  The Levites were the priests.  Today, it is not like that.  There are no more priests except that each member of the church has become a priest. We have now become the ministers, and pastors are here to help equip us for our individual ministries.  But, they have unknowingly taught us that they are the only ministers, and that we should give them all of our resources; our money, time, etc., so that they can do all of the ministering.  This places an unnecessary burden on the pastors as they have created for themselves more work to do. It has also guaranteed that they will not have time to work outside the Church, so that they must receive a salary for their services in the Church to support themselves and their families.  This burden is passed on to the Church members as they are required to give more of their income to support the pastor’s income.  This burden is passed on further to the members when they feel obligated to give their tithe, and then when an opportunity comes up where they might be able to support someone else’s needs, a battle begins to rage; “ What should I do? give the full ten percent, or take some and provide for the needs of someone else?”  Usually, the Church wins out.  The full tithe is given.  The person in need, remains in need.  There are consequences for requiring tithes.  Many Church members give less than ten percent and usually feel guilty about it.  Others even lie about how much they give because they don’t want others to know that they don’t tithe.  But the most devastating consequence of requiring Church members to tithe is that it takes away the Church member’s ability to think on his own about what to do with the resources that God has given him.  By paying the tithe, no thinking is required.  The tither goes away feeling as though he’s done his part, while his neighbor remains in need. 

What does the Bible say to Christians about tithing?  In the following pages, I will attempt to explain what tithing means, according to the Bible. In part 1, every aspect of tithing is looked at, and you will see who tithed, why they tithed, who they tithed to, and what happened to the tithe.  In part 2, I’ll explain that the new covenant supersedes the old covenant, and a new and better way is made for us to draw near to God.  In part 3, I’ll explain what the New Testament says about tithing, and in part 4,  I’ll explain what Christ and the apostles teach about giving. Part 5 explains the how’s and why’s we as Christians are to give.  It proves conclusively that there is a way in which we should give, and tithing isn’t it.  Some of you reading this might say that, “It’s true that tithing in the literal sense is not required of Christians, we just call it that out of tradition and I’m just making a big deal over semantics.” The problem with that is, most Christian Churches teach their congregations to give ten percent, and they call it tithing. They say that, “It is an issue of trusting God to provide you with all that you need... taking that step of faith by giving that ten percent.”  There is no doubt in my mind that tithing was something that God required of the Israelites under the old covenant, but under the new covenant, Christ requires something different from us.  We are to obey His laws, and set aside the laws of Moses. In effect, when we truly obey the laws of Christ, no laws have been set aside, but the entire law is fulfilled.  These pages carefully consider what God really expects from us in terms of giving.  You’ll see that the overwhelming theme in giving is mercy.

Part 1

The Old Testament

Abram

The first time the word tenth, is found in the Scriptures, as it relates to giving, is in the book of Genesis, chapter 14, verse 20.  Abram, who is later known as Abraham, has just returned from defeating four kings (Gen 14:8-17).  Abram, being grateful to God because He delivered his enemies into his hands, gave Melchizedek, king of Salem also known as priest of God Most High, a tenth of everything.  I believe Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything, not because Melchizedek was a king, but because he was a priest of God Most High.  This was his way of showing how grateful he was to God. Abram chose to give Melchizedek a tenth out of his heart.  No one told him to give a tenth, or even to give Melchizedek anything.  This was something he had chosen to do voluntarily.

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. GE 14:17-20

Jacob

The next place I found where a tenth is mentioned, is in Genesis 28:20-22. Here, Jacob makes a covenant with God.  He vows that "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."  Jacob, made an agreement with God with conditions attached, but he also voluntarily gave a tenth back of all that he had received from Him.  The tenth was not something commanded by God, it was what Jacob determined in his heart to give.  The tenth only became mandatory as a result of Jacob making a vow to God. He was then required to fulfill his vow to give a tenth of all that God had given him. It was Jacob who determined the conditions of the covenant.  Jacob is the one who decided to give God ten percent if God would fulfill His part of the covenant to watch over and provide for him. 

Moses

The next place I found in the Bible which speaks about giving a tenth is actually a command from God and this is the first place found in the Bible where the word tithe is mentioned.  The Lord spoke to Moses and commanded him to speak to the Israelites concerning; ...the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses. Lev 26:46

" `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.  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.' These are the commands the LORD gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites. LEV 27:30-34

These tithes had nothing to do with money, but they were crops from the land, and animals from their flocks.  This was the first time an amount was placed on giving.  It was called a tithe, or a tenth.  This is also the first time tithing became mandatory by a statute created by God.   It is one thing to make a vow to God and be required to keep that vow, but when God commands us, we have no choice but to obey, or suffer the consequences.  These commandments were given to Moses for the Israelites.

Aaron

Now Aaron was a Levite (Exodus 4:14). He was made a priest of God for the Israelites (Exodus 27:20 to Exodus 28-4). Aaron and his sons were to be priests for the Israelites, but they had no inheritance in the land, nor any share among them except the Lord God.

The LORD said to Aaron, "You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites. NU 18:20

God commanded the Israelites to give their tithes to the Levites as this was their inheritance because they had no inheritance in the land.  The Levites were commanded to be priests for the Israelites.

"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. From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die.  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.' " NU 18:21-24

The Levites were also commanded to give a tithe from the tithes they had received from the Israelites. They were to give their tithe to the high priest, Aaron.

The LORD said to Moses,  "Speak to the Levites and say to them: `When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering.  Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites.From these tithes you must give the LORD's portion to Aaron the priest. You must present as the LORD's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.' NU 18:25-29

If the Levites did as they were commanded by God concerning giving their tithes, they would be able to present the offerings of the Israelites that were acceptable to God, and not die.

"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.' "NU 18:30-32

There was no choice in the matter.  Tithes were required by God for the Israelites and the Levites, but not Aaron the high priest.  Aaron received the final tithe for himself.

The Israelites

God commanded the Israelites to always obey all of His laws.

Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. DT 11:1 

But, God also commanded the Israelites to obey particular laws as long as they lived in the land that God had given them to posses. Among those laws and decrees they had to obey, as long as they lived in the land that God had given them, was tithing.

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? DT 10:12-13

These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess--as long as you live in the land. DT 12:1

You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. DT 12:4-7

Here, God has commanded the Israelites to seek a place the LORD their God will choose from among all their tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling.  He commanded them not to worship like the people of the nations they were about to dispossess, and to bring their burnt offerings and sacrifices, their tithes and special gifts, what they had vowed to give and their freewill offerings, and the firstborn of their herds and flocks. Then they were commanded to eat and rejoice in everything they had put their hand to, because the LORD their God had blessed them.  This was a time of celebration where they all enjoyed the burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, special gifts, freewill offerings, and the firstborn of their herds and flocks.  Together, they shared in all of these things.

You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you.  But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  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.  And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.  Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you. DT 12:8-14

The Israelites were commanded that once they entered the land that God had given them to posses, they were not to do as they were now doing concerning burnt offerings.  God had specific instructions that they had to follow.  Once they crossed the Jordan, and were in the land that God had promised them, they had to be careful to observe everything that God had commanded them.  But, they also had a celebration where they all shared in the burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, special gifts, freewill offerings, and the firstborn of their herds and flocks.

Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the LORD your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose--you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns--and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to. Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land. DT 12:15-19

God gave specific instructions to the Israelites as to exactly what they were to do with their tithes.  They were to eat them in the presence of the LORD their God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that they may learn to revere the LORD their God always. And God said do not neglect the Levites living in your towns.  The Israelites were commanded to share the feasts of their tithes, with them.  This is the first reference to money.  If they lived too far away, and God had blessed them so much that they could not even carry their tithe to where God required them to carry it, they were allowed to trade it in for silver, and once they got to the place which God had commanded them to go, they could buy anything they wanted for their great feast.

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. DT 14:22-27

God commanded the Israelites, after three years, to bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in their towns.  This was their way of sharing what they had with the Levites, aliens, the fatherless and the widows

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. DT 14:28-29

When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 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." DT 26:12-15

Samuel

The Elders of Israel were asking Samuel for a king to lead them (1Samuel 8:4-5).  Samuel told them all the words of the Lord concerning what will happen to them should they get their wish.   The king would take a tenth of their grain and of their vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. He would take a tenth of their flocks, and they would become his slaves. In other words, their tithe would suddenly be doubled.  A tenth would still be required to comply with God's commands, but another tenth would be taken from them by a king.

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king.  He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.  Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day." 1SA 8:10-18

King Hezekiah

While king Ahaz reigned, he gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the LORD's temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger (2CH 28:24-25). Then, after he died, Hezekiah became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord  (2CH 29:1-2). 

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: "Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the LORD, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.  Our fathers were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the LORD our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the LORD's dwelling place and turned their backs on him. They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. Therefore, the anger of the LORD has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; he has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. Now I intend to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense." 2CH 29:3-11

King Hezekiah  knew the results of not following God's commands, and so he made a covenant with God so that His anger will be turned away.  King Hezekiah ordered the Levites to consecrate themselves and the temple of the Lord and all that was in it.  Then the priests presented a sin offering to the Lord to atone for all Israel.  Once again, they dedicated themselves to God.

Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions--each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites--to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the LORD's dwelling. The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD. He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The men 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. They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the LORD and blessed his people Israel. Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over." 2CH 31:2-10

King Hezekiah brought back the command to tithe and here is how it was distributed among the Levites who were faithful to consecrate themselves.

Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done. Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts. Conaniah, a Levite, was in charge of these things, and his brother Shimei was next in rank. Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath and Benaiah were supervisors under Conaniah and Shimei his brother, by appointment of King Hezekiah and Azariah the official in charge of the temple of God.  Kore son of Imnah the Levite, keeper of the East Gate, was in charge of the freewill offerings given to God, distributing the contributions made to the LORD and also the consecrated gifts.  Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah and Shecaniah assisted him faithfully in the towns of the priests, distributing to their fellow priests according to their divisions, old and young alike.  In addition, they distributed to the males three years old or more whose names were in the genealogical records--all who would enter the temple of the LORD to perform the daily duties of their various tasks, according to their responsibilities and their divisions.  And they distributed to the priests enrolled by their families in the genealogical records and likewise to the Levites twenty years old or more, according to their responsibilities and their divisions. They included all the little ones, the wives, and the sons and daughters of the whole community listed in these genealogical records. For they were faithful in consecrating themselves. As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who lived on the farm lands around their towns or in any other towns, men were designated by name to distribute portions to every male among them and to all who were recorded in the genealogies of the Levites. This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.  2CH 31:11-20

In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2CH 31:21

Nehemiah

Nehemiah was appointed by the Persian government to be the Governor of Jerusalem.  Even though he had great difficulty, he rebuilt the city walls.  He wasn't happy to find out that the people had not been living according to the laws of God and was worried that God would not protect them. He set out to make some changes because he knew that it was far more important for the people to rely on God's protection, than the protection of the walls.  Nehemiah got the people to turn back to God (Nehemiah 8).  Ezra the priest, read the book of the law to all the people who could understand.  Tithing was among those requirements of the law.

"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." NE 10:37-39

At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites.  They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did also the singers and gatekeepers, according to the commands of David and his son Solomon.  For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the singers and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.  So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron. NE 12:44-47

It's important to see that a portion was set aside for the Levites, and the descendants of Aaron who was once the high priest, and who was now dead. 

Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.  NE 13:4-5

I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, "Why is the house of God neglected?" Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.  All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms. I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because these men were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their brothers. 
NE 13:10-13

Trustworthy men were put in charge of distributing supplies to their brothers.  Those tithes that were given, were distributed to the Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and priests, to do with as they pleased.  This was their payment for the work that they had done.

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services. NE 13:14

Amos

God chastises Israel through the prophet, Amos.  He says, go ahead, continue to sin and bring in your sacrifices and tithes.  How hypocritical they were.  They thought just because they brought sacrifices and tithes, they could continue to sin and God would not be against them.  Here, Amos shows them they are wrong.

"Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings--  boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do," declares the Sovereign LORD. AM 4:4-5

Malachi

God chastises Israel through the prophet Malachi.  They were guilty of giving defective offerings and not paying their tithes according to the law.  God told them that if they were faithful in giving their tithes, He would bless them, but for now they were under a curse. 

"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.  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.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty.  "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. 
MAL 3:8-12

Cursed

Did you notice those words, “ You are under a curse...”?  Let’s look at what it means to be under a curse according to the Bible.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. GAL 3:10-14

Definitions for the word, tithe

Let’s look at the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the word, tithe.

There are two different forms of the word in the Hebrew language.  The first word, MaaserStrong’s Concordance of the Bible, number 4643, simply means, “A tenth.”  The second word for tithe, AsarStrong’s Concordance of the Bible, number 6237 means, “To give or take a tenth.”  The first word is the word for tenth, and the second is the word for giving or taking a tenth.

In the Greek language, there are three different forms of the word, tithe. The first word, Apodekatoo, Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, number 586 is interesting to me.  It literally means, “To tithe as a debtor or creditor.”   The last two Greek words for tithe, are practically identical to the two Hebrew words.  Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, number 1181, Dekate means,” a tenth”, and Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, number 1183, Dekatoo means, “to give or take a tenth.”

The Greek word for tithe that means, “To tithe as a debtor or creditor” (Apodekatoo), is used when Jesus was chastising the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, and Luke 11:42.  The Pharisees were required to tithe because they were still under the law of the old covenant. Christ had to die in order for the new covenant to take affect.  Therefore, they owed their tithe as debtors.

Again, the Greek word for tithe as it is used to describe a debtor, is used In Luke 18:12.  The Pharisee is praying and is proud of the things that he does compared to the tax collector. This Pharisee, like the others, owes the tithe according to the law of the old covenant.  The tax collector also owed the tithe, but Jesus said, he is the one who was justified before God because he humbled himself, and admitted that he was a sinner. 

And the last place we see the Greek word for tithe being used to describe a debtor or creditor is in Hebrews 7:5. It literally says, “Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people...” This verse shows the relationship between the creditor (the Levites), and the debtor (the Israelites). It also shows that the tithe is something that was owed because of the requirement of the law. This law was the old law; The law of Moses; The old covenant.

There are no more references in the Old Testament, to the word, tithe.  These were the requirements of the law that were handed down by God to the Israelites.

The Old Testament clearly explains the requirement to tithe, the purpose for the tithes, who was responsible for tithing, and who was responsible for receiving and distributing the tithes. 

In Part Two, we will see that there are striking differences between the Old and the New Covenants.  Which covenant are Christians under?  There is no doubt that Christians are now under the New Covenant.

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