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The Tithe

The Tithe

The first time we hear of a tithe in the Scriptures, we see it way back in Genesis.

Since we are taught that a tithe is a tenth of all we earn, we give it little thought. The word is first used when Abram gave the priest Malchizedek King of Salem a tithe on the plains of Mesopotamia.

Gen. 14:1-4: "And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;

"That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.

"All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.

"Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled."

For twelve years, nine kings served Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam. In the thirteenth year, five of these kings rebelled. This happened when Chedorlaomer had been out waging wars. One assumes the rebellious kings thought Chedorlaomer would be too weak to maintain his empire.

Gen. 14:5-10 "And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim,

"And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.

"And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.

"And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;

"With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.

"And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain."

The five rebellious kings faired poorly. Their armies were defeated, and Chedorlaomer ransacked the lands of the two nearest cities of the defeated kings, Sodom and Gomorrah.

Gen. 14:11-13: "And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.

"And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

"And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram."

When Sodom was ransacked, Abram's brother Lot was taken as a captive as well, for he dwelt in Sodom. But Abram was not without resources. He had an army himself.

Gen. 14:14-16: "And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

"And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

"And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people."

Abram attacked the armies of Chedorlaomer with little over three hundred men. While Chedorlaomer's army was merely the armed men of four relatively small iron age cities, it is likely that each city gave at least as many men as Abram fielded, maybe more.

Nevertheless, Abram goes with God, and is victorious.

Gen. 14:17-20: "And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale.

"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

"And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

"And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all."

Out of thanksgiving, Abram gave the priest tithes of all. When we read this, we assume it means "tithes of all he had."

Heb. 7:1-4: "For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

"To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

"Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

"Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils."

Abram, here called by a name he would have years after the battle with Chedorlaomer, gave Malchizedek a tenth, not of all he had, but of all of the spoils.

We only assume that Abram tithed anything else, ever.

We have no right to assume.

What God wants us to know, He reveals. He only reveals that Abram gave tithes from the spoils, from the goods he recovered from that one battle.

The Scriptures don't even tell us he tithed anything at all from his own earnings, or from his own goods. Just of the spoils. We cannot assume anything else, to teach as doctrine. We can only teach as truth the fact that Abram tithed of the spoils only.

We certainly never see where Abram or any other soul in Genesis was commanded to tithe.

Abram's grandson certainly did not have the habit of tithing. The very second time the tithe is mentioned, we find Jacob making a vow to God. Isaac, son of Abram, has commanded his son Jacob to go to the land of his nativity and find a wife from his own clan.

Gen 28:10-15: "And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

"And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

"And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

"And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."

Jacob was sleeping, and God made him promises via a dream.

Jacob, knowing this was no ordinary dream, was a bit freaked, and in his state of awe made a promise to God:

Gen. 16-22: "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

"And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

"And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

"And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

"And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

"So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

"And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."

Jacob said, God, IF thou will be with me…of all that thou shalt give me I shall surely give the tenth unto thee."

While this is probably the inspired reaction on the part of Jacob to realizing the presence of God, it was not a commandment from God, but Jacob's vow to God.

Nowhere in Genesis is it said people commonly tithe, nowhere are people commanded to tithe. Abram tithed, but not of commandment, and only of the spoils.

Jacob promised to tithe, and the Scriptures do not say he lied. It cannot be assumed this was a common event. In fact, it was so extraordinary that the promise of a tithe of "all that thou shalt give me" was a response to the promise that among other things, in Jacob all nations would be blessed.

So, contrary to what many of us have believed, in Genesis, it cannot be assumed that tithing was a common or commanded practice. The tithe was not commanded until hundreds of years later, in the wilderness as the Law was given to Moses.

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.

The word tithe simply means "a tenth." Leviticus states "All the tenth of the land, whether of the seed(grain, etc.)…or the fruit…is the Lord's. Here for the first time, Israel is told that they are to tithe. They are told that the tenth of all crops and of all fruits are the Lord's.

Lev. 27:31: "And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof."

Sometimes the farmers growing grain or fruit would travel long distances to bring their tithes to the priests, the Levites at the Tabernacle, or later to the Temple. They were able to sell these tithes and bring the cash, but to keep them honest about it they were commanded to add 20 percent to the redeemed value.

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."

Not only the tenth of the seed and fruit, the tenth of every animal were the Lord's.

Lev. 27:33-34: "He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

"These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai."

These are the commandments which the Lord commanded. Tithes were made up of seed, fruit, and livestock.

Add to the commandments of the Lord if you will, but these were what were commanded.

Of course, your preacher might say, "these were all farmers. They didn't have professionals, they did not get paychecks, or even get paid in wads of cash.

First, God has foreknowledge. In a few generations, many Israelites lived in towns and cities, many would be paid in wads of cash, or at least coin or precious metals or stones for their labor. He made no tithe for such.

Furthermore, Israel had come out of Egypt. They were not all farmers and shepherds. In fact, when the Laws were given, Israel was in transit, growing no crops at all, yet this was mentioned first. You see, Moses didn't apply the Law to what he thought would apply, he wrote what God told him to write.

In addition, coming out of Egypt, there were brick builders, tentmakers, jewelers and likely every profession the slaves had performed in Egypt. If the tithes of the land were given as an oversight, it was a whopping oversight. If Scripture is to be taken seriously, we must give weight to what it actually reveals regarding situations..

To honestly handle Scripture, we must assume that the tithe being limited to seeds, fruits and livestock was deliberate, the commandments the Lord deliberately commanded.

Abram tithed, but not from his own increase, rather, as Paul mentioned many centuries later, from the recovered stolen goods. Jacob stated an intention to tithe, and likely did so, but is not actually ever recorded as doing so.

Israel is commanded to tithe, but not every increase, only that which came as an increase in livestock, or seed or fruit pulled directly from the land. Even people paid in livestock, seed or fruit were not told to tithe. Only the actual increase, that which was birthed or actually harvested, was tithed.

Duet. 12:17-18: "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:

"But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto."

Again, the seeds and fruits of harvest. Oil comes from seed and fruit such as olives, wine comes from fruit, firstlings are livestock born to the herd. Furthermore, these were to be given to the Levites and the priests among the Levites to be distributed in feast.

Neh. 10:36-38: "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:

"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.

"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."

Here again, it is agricultural and husbandry product that is tithed, given to the "Levites…in the cities of our tillage," in the cities near where seeds, fruits and animals are raised and harvested.

Note that the Levites tithed from the tithe, from these seeds, fruits and animals, to the priests among the Levites, into the house of God. But this was the priests' share of the tithe. The tithe was the share which took care of the Levites who were granted no inheritance, no land in Israel, and the "tithe of the tithe" took care of the priests among the Levites, as well as strangers and the destitute..

This tithe of the tithe was the Levitical priesthood's portion that they could serve God and God's people.

Mal. 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."

Tithes were not supplied to patch cement in the sanctuary, nor thatch its roof. They were supplied "that there might be meat" in the house of God.

Love offerings, called "free will" offerings provided fiscal resources to the priesthood.

The tithe was foodstuff.

It behooves us not to alter "the commandments which the Lord has commanded" to suit our own doctrine.

Matt. 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."

Theses scribes and Pharisees tithed what? Money? No.

They tithed mint and anise and cumin.

These were expensive spices, sure, but they were all from the increase of the earth. They tithed from the increase of their nice little urban "yuppee" gardens.

In Luke we see someone under the Law tithing of "all I possess."

Luke 18:9-14: "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

"I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

God asked the farmers and husbandmen to "humbleth" themselves by honoring God with their firstfruits.

Here is a man smug in his self-righteousness. Is he keeping the commandment of God by tithing of all he possessed? Of course not, unless this "all" refers to increases of the land, the firstfruits of animals, and the dedication of first-born sons to the Lord.

We see this fellow is exalting himself. He is seemingly taking pride in going far beyond what God actually commanded, but his heart is off.

He shall be abased.

Jesus then fulfilled the Law.

What about the Christian? Well, if we are still responsible as Christian to follow the commandment God gave to Israel, does Scripture tell us? Or do we have to guess?

Let's find out what the commandments of God actually are to us.

Gal. 5:1-4: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

"Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

"For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."

If you try to follow the Law of the Old Testament, being saved by grace, you are "fallen from grace." In this life, Christ shall profit you zippo, zilch, nada.

What is it then? We are no longer bound to do the tithe.

If we were, it would apply only if we farmers or ranchers, or gardeners.

We would take a tenth, the firstfruits, to, well, wherever we would have been told to take them.

But if Scripture is silent, not commanding us to continue the tithe, what are we to do?

2 Cor. 9:1: "For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:"

Just as there might be meat in the house of God for the sake of the Levites and strangers, this is regarding the "ministering of the saints."

"Saints" is another word for the general Christian people, the holy ones of God in this day and age.

2Cor. 9:2-5: "For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

"Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:

"Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

"Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness."

Paul said, "Touching this ministering to the saints, this collection to care for the needs of your brethren, I've been boasting that you guys are A-one. But to avoid embarrassment on your part for not being ready, I'm giving notice."

2 Cor. 9:6-7: "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."

The farmers and ranchers and shepherds of Israel were to tithe no less than, well, a tithe, ten percent.

We are to give, nut half-heartedly or because we feel obligated, but because we want to. We give as much as we are cheerful to give.

What if we only want to give a little?

Well, if that's all we really have, let us do so joyfully, thankful we have even that to give. God is NOT going to hold it against you.

But remember: if you are holding back because of selfish interest, he who reaps sparingly shall sow what? Sparingly.

2 Cor. 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:"

Think you can out-give God?

Like to see you try.

We as Christians are not under the tithe.

The lie that we ever were obligated to give ten percent of everything was, well, a lie.

At worst, it has been an excuse by ministers to control a larger portion of wealth, or even to rake some in for their own selves. At best it is misguided, and wrong, on part of well-intentioned but misguided ministers.

But, brethren, let us not use liberty as an occasion to the flesh. As we reap, so shall we sow.

God has poured out His riches already, how much more He longs to do for us.

Our job then is to give our sharing to those we think best suited to take this bounty and use it to minister to the earthly needs, the need for food, clothing, and shelter, of God's people, and to care for His ministers.

That is the command to us, that is our duty.

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