The Law of the Tithe
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Unfortunately, this is a literary work, not an artistic one. I ask that you allow me to paint two pictures for you; not images perceived on paper or canvas, but rather depictions that must be visualized with the eye of your mind.
I will attempt to keep my words below the two-thousand limit granted by the ancient and time-honored adage.
Examine with me, if you will, please, the figures of two distinctly different men, who have in common a professional career and not much else.
Portrait number one, is of Dr. Randolph James Thurber III, Ph.D., a wealthy man of much renown. Pillar of the Philadelphia community, member of the St. Luke's Hospital Board of Trustees, major stockholder of Intelli-Comp, Inc., author of six best-selling self-help books, Dean and Founder of Thurber College, Founder and President of R.J. Thurber Ministries, and Pastor of Holy Cross Tabernacle, a ten-million-dollar glass and mirror structure that dominates thirty stories worth of downtown skyline and houses ten-thousand people.
Dr. Randolph Thurber owns a two-million dollar brick home on Lexington Avenue, within the confines of Concord Pines Estates, an exclusive golf resort and country club. His four-car garage houses a Lexus, a Cadillac, a Lincoln Continental, and a firecracker red Maserati Shamal sports car.
He wears tailor-made Italian suits starting at nothing less than one thousand dollars, and hand-tooled alligator shoes.
Perhaps you don't need to hear about his two-visits-per week to the hair stylist, or about his gourmet chef, housekeeper, and gardener, or the expensive furs, fragrances, and clothing that his wife indulges in.
Most likely, you don't need to hear about his Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, the air-conditioned doghouse, the double showers in the six bathrooms, the eight bedrooms, two jacuzzis, fully-furnished game room, or the private tennis courts on the back ten acres.
Did I mention his forty-foot yacht?
No, you do not need to know about his church's two hundred-voice choir, fifteen Sunday School classrooms, full-size basketball court, thirty-piece orchestra, or his Sunday morning television and radio broadcasts, to know that this is a man with wealth; with influence; with business savvy, and distinction.
You don't need to see his framed degrees in Theology and Religion, or the picture taken of him shaking the hand of the President, to know that he is an intelligent, learned, and respected individual.
It isn't necessary to hear that his children attend private schools, or that he owns a Learjet and helicopter at Thurber Field, or even that caviar is his favorite food, for you would deduce most of these things by merely observing Dr. Randolph James Thurber III, Ph.D.
His very bearing is regal, and distinguished. He absolutely exudes confidence and culture. He speaks with the dulcet tones of a master orator, and clarifies the existence of reality to those who have a less than perfect grasp of it.
Most of the world can make a fairly accurate assessment of his personality, his lifestyle, and his yearly income just by looking at him, and yet they don't seem to be able to help themselves from contributing to his building funds, his television and radio ministries, his other various projects, or his political campaign for Governor!
This is a man who needs no financial aid, especially from the poor and middle-class. So why does he continue to ask, no… insist upon the donation of resources from those who are not as well-off as he is?
And perhaps even more inexplicably, why are they giving it to him?
Now let's look at profile number two. His name is Peter. That's all. Just Peter. No last name, no title, no alphabet soup after his name.
An unlearned man who never went to school, he makes his living from the sea. He lives at the homes of those who will take him in, and his transportation consists of two ragged leather sandals and his own two feet.
His possessions are few: the sandals; a dirty, worn tunic that used to be white but is now stained a permanent gray from the dust and dirt of the gritty paths and grimy byways of hot and humid villages; a threadbare robe that never is quite successful in keeping out the chill night air or the wind's biting current; and a rough-hewn walking staff made from the branch of a stout cedar.
He is not a popular or well-liked figure by the general public or the authorities of the cities he frequents. He has been arrested often, and has spent years in various prisons.
He has no family, no money, and no home. He asks for nothing, which is just as well, because most people would not even give him the time of day.
His purpose is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to whoever will receive it.
So there you have it: Two men. Two preachers of Christ. One successful, rich, and respected. The other a wanderer, poor, and hated.
However, believe this when I tell you: The latter man is richer than the former.
While the first may be wealthy with earthly possessions, the second, although living in poverty, is rich with the treasures of heaven, and indeed, owns the key to the very gates.
The Bible says that where a man's heart is, that is where his treasure can be found. To put it another way, the treasure of a man shows where his heart is.
Peter's treasure is spiritual, and it shows that his heart is with God. The wealth of the Kingdom is at his disposal, and he attained it through obedience and dependence on the Lord.
Dr. Randolph James Thurber III's treasure is obvious. It is worldly, and it shows that his heart is with his "toys". It was gained through the tithes and offerings of those who were less-fortunate than he.
The Bible says to sell what you have and give to the poor. Peter could not have agreed with this more, but Pastor Thurber hoarded unto himself, and took from the poor.
Why is it that preachers always seem to be asking for money? Not only are your tithes and offerings not enough, they feel the need to conduct telethons, marathons, carwashes, and fund drives. Some even pass out piggy banks.
Are the Faithful being swindled by spiritual cons, being coerced by fancy words and explanations of "doctrine" and "theology" to slay their paychecks on the sacrificial altar of the minister's wallet?
And are the collected funds being used to minister to someone's need, or to give to the poor? Are they being used for furthering the Kingdom of God, or furthering the social status of the religious elite?
In many cases, they simply allow the preacher to be able to afford a new pinky ring, or to put his children through private school, or to buy his wife a new mink coat, or to fill up the gas tank on his ten-miles-per-gallon Sport Utility Vehicle.
The early church turned the world upside-down for Christ with no money at all, to speak of. We with our millions can't even get its attention.
For too long, we have given blindly of our finances to the priests. It's time we checked out what the Bible has to say on the subject of tithes and offerings.
Hark! The peasants are in revolt! They have appealed to the Word of God for justice and freedom from the tyrannical oppression of the Church Administrators, and have agreed to abide by the ruling from the Great White Throne.
If the Lord decrees that the system of tithes and offerings are to remain in place, then so they shall.
(For the part of Dr. Randolph James Thurber III, however, he has hardened his heart and resolved to insist upon the bringing in of the tithe into his storehouse, regardless of the decision that is handed down, and is presently engaged with his nose buried deep in his Exhaustive Concordance looking for scriptures that will appear to support his claim. After all, his heart is not with the Lord or His decrees, but with the material possessions that, ironically, he will be unable to bring along into the afterlife.)
The first time we hear of tithing is in Genesis chapter 14, where Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils.
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). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Do we read here that Melchizedek required of Abraham a tenth of the spoils? No we do not.
Do we read that Abraham paid Melchizedek, according to a law or regulation? No we do not.
In fact, we see that Abraham voluntarily, willingly gave Melchizedek a tenth of the plunder.
The next time we hear of this exchange between Abraham and Melchizedek, is in Hebrews chapter 7.
Hebrews 7:1-10 - This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 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. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8 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. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
Again, do we read here that Abraham was ordered, forced, coerced, instructed, or otherwise made to give a tenth of everything to Melchizedek? No we do not.
We do not read of institutionalizing the act of tithing until verse 5 of this chapter: 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.
Here we have the words "law", and "requires". The Levitical priests were required by law to collect a tenth from the people - their brothers - the Jews. As a matter of fact, in an odd sort of way, Levi himself, who is required by law to collect these tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek in a figurative sense, through Abraham his ancestor.
So we see Abraham willingly giving ten percent to Melchizedek. This gesture of respect is at some point in time repeated by the Jews and instituted as law. The Jews were required by this law to give a tithe after the manner of Abraham, and the Levites were required to collect it after the manner of Melchizedek.
Mention is made that everyone pays tithes, even the Levites. They are not just to collect the tithe, but they have also paid the tithe, through their ancestor Abraham.
Who did the Jews pay their tithes to? The Levitical Priests.
Let's go to where this law was first put in place.
Lev. 27:30-33 - "'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. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock-every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod-will be holy to the LORD. 33 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.'"
(This scripture lets us know that God required a tithe of crops and animals.)
Num. 18:21-24 - "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. 22 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. 23 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. 24 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.'"
(This scripture tells us what happens to the tithes. They are given to the Levites.)
Deut. 12:5-7 - 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; 6 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. 7 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.
(This tells us where the tithes are to be taken: to the place God will choose.)
Deut. 12:17-19 - 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. 18 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. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
(This shows us that the people ate of their firstfruits, offerings, and gifts. They weren't to eat these in their towns, but only in the special holy place that the Lord would choose. The tithes were also eaten, but only by the Levites, who also took part in this ceremony. The Levites were given no inheritance, and did not work in the fields, so the only food they had to eat would have been the tithes given to them by the people.)
Deut. 14:22-29 - Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 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. 24 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), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 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. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 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.
(Again, we see that the people are to eat the offerings and firstfruits in the place the Lord will choose, and they are not to forget to give the tithe to the Levites to eat. Provision is made here for those who have too far to travel to the place the Lord chooses. They do not have to transport all of their tithes and offerings, but are permitted to sell them and buy food and drink to eat at the Lord's chosen place. They are reminded to buy food and drink for the Levites also, for their tithe that they may have something to eat. At the end of every third year, instead of the Lord choosing a place to go to, the people are instructed to store that year's portion of the tithe in their towns in order to build up a supply of food for the Levites, as well as the poor. Of this tithe that is stored in the towns, only the poor may eat of it, and they may eat of it at any time.)
Deut. 26:12-15 - 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 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."
(Once the people did what they were told during the third year, called the Year of the Tithe, they were to pray to the Lord and tell Him that they had complied with His laws. For obeying the Lord, the people and the land would be blessed.)
So we see that the Lord made a number of regulations concerning the tithe:
1) The tithe was to be collected from all crops and animals and given to the Levites.
2) The tithe would be taken every year to the place the Lord would choose.
3) At the special place chosen of the Lord, the Levites would eat of the tithe.
4) If it would be too great a hardship to travel with all of the offerings and tithes to the place the Lord would choose, then they were permitted to sell their offerings and tithes, and once they arrived at the Lord's special place, they could buy with that money whatever they wished, give the tithe to the Levites and partake of the rest.
5) Every third year, the tithe was to be stored in the towns, for the benefit of the Levites and the poor.
This was the Law. It was very specific as to what the tithe was, who it was to be given to, where it was to be taken, and what was to be done with it.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that these regulations concerning the tithe were changed in any way. There were never any amendments made to the Law of God. The tithing laws were never changed, edited, or updated.
The institution of repentance as a requirement of salvation has also never been changed. Repentance is a necessary step in gaining eternal life.
Never does the Bible tell us, that at some point we will be able to take our place in the Kingdom of Heaven without ever having to repent of our sins.
The requirement of being baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins is another commandment that was never rescinded or altered.
We are told in Acts chapter 2 that we must also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. This requirement, also, was never retracted in the Bible.
Today, we follow these instructions in order to receive eternal life, because the Word of God explains to us that if we want to be saved, there is no other way, no other plan given to us for salvation.
Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:12 - Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
Eph. 4:5 - one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Gal. 1:8,9 - But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
The Word of God set forth the rules for attaining salvation, and for the procedure of tithing. Today, we continue to follow to the letter the Lord's instructions for salvation, but we have changed the manner in which we tithe.
Why have we taken this liberty with the Word of God?
1. God decreed that the tithe was to be of all crops and animals.
The only thing we tithe of today is our paychecks.
A lot of us aren't farmers, so we don't own any crops or animals. How then, can we possibly tithe in the Biblical manner?
We can't. So we have substituted for crops and animals, our money.
What did Cain teach us about substituting offerings for the Lord? The Lord refused to accept the offering. Blessings were not bestowed upon Cain.
We just read earlier in Lev. 27:33 - "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.'"
So there was a punishment for making substitutions. If a man decided to keep a strong, fat calf and to offer a weaker, leaner one instead, then God decreed that not only would the weaker calf become holy to the Lord and unacceptable for the man to use or eat, so also would the strong calf that he switched become holy and unavailable to the man. He would not only lose one calf, but he would lose two!
So if we substitute money for an animal, then the substitute (the money) becomes holy and completely unavailable for our use, as well as the original animal that we did not give. We may not have an animal, but the principle remains: God will cause something that we do have to become holy to Him. In effect, He will take something away from us.
This could take the form of causing our clothing to wear out, refusing to bestow blessings upon us, or putting a hole in the bag of our earnings so that they spill out and are blown away by the wind.
(Deut. 8:4 - "Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years." - God blessed the Israelites during their journey from Egypt to Israel by causing their clothing to last. If the Lord decided to remove blessings from us, He could possibly not only simply refuse to bless us, but could invoke a curse on us, causing our clothing to wear out even faster than normal. We would then have to spend more money just to remain clothed. By making a substitution, then, we have only punished ourselves.)
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