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QUESTION: Why Do I Tithe?

[The following question came from our church web-page, http://www.Plymouth-church.com, where I answer questions.]

Who initiated tithing?  Who and where did it start from?  I tithe, but I have questions thrown at me.  Why do I tithe?  I tithe because I know that Abraham said that he gave God his first fruit.

Tithing in the Old Testament

The Old Testament commands tithing. The first instance of tithing is when Abram (Abraham) gave a tithe to Melchizedek, king of Salem (Genesis 14:18-20). We are not told of any instruction God may have given to Abraham to do this – though it is likely that God did give him such instructions – nor are we told why the tithe was given to Melchizedek.

We do read of Melchizedek in Psalm 110:4 and again in Hebrews 5:10; 7:1-28 where he is presented as an early “type” of the coming Christ. Jesus is a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” In Hebrews we also learn that this man, whose name meant “king of righteousness,” was not only “King of [Jeru]Salem” (which means “king of peace“), but that he was also a priest of the most high God (Hebrews 7:1-3). Thus, he was an appropriate figure of the coming Christ.

I was not able to find any reference to Abraham saying he gave to God the first fruit, such as you mention in your query.

The next instance of tithing is in Genesis 28:20-22 when Jacob (Abraham’s grandson), made a vow to give a tithe if God would bless him on his journey. Here, Jacob proposed a “bargain” with God, something that man is really not in a position to do. Man is to obey God, not bargain with Him!

The Law of Moses required several tithes of the Israelites. There was a tithe for the support of the Levites (Numbers 18:25-29), of which the Levites were also to give a tithe to the Lord. There was a tithe to provide for their participation in the three great feast days each year (Deuteronomy 14:22-26). There was also a tithe every 3 years for the support of the poor (Deuteronomy 14:29).

In addition, Samuel warned the people, when they asked for a king, that the king would also require a tithe as well as other benefits from the people to support his government (see 1 Samuel 8:10-18, especially v. 17).

In a well known passage about tithing, God speaks to Israel:

“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.” – Malachi 3:8-12

Not only were they not bringing the full tithe, they were bringing blemished offerings instead of the best they had.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. – Malachi 1:6-8

In other words, they showed a general indifference to their God. Yet, as we turn to the New Testament, we discover there is something more important to the LORD than tithing.

Tithing in the New Testament

There is little in the New Testament about tithing.

In Luke 18:12, the parable of Jesus about the Pharisee and Tax Collector praying in the Temple has the Pharisee boasting in his prayer that he paid tithes on all he received. Yet, the Tax Collector was the one who went down to his house justified.

In Matthew 23:23, as Jesus pronounced woes on the Pharisees, one woe came because their misguided priorities led them to pay tithes on the herbs of their gardens while they neglected “the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

Hebrews 7:4-10 discusses Abraham’s payment of the tithe to Melchizedek. The point there is that Christ, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, has a greater priesthood than the Levitical priests because Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek in the person of his ancestor, Abraham.

That is all the New Testament has to say about tithing.

Tithing for the Christian

Should the Christian give generously of his means? Yes, he should! However, our giving is not by a formula; rather, it is a measure of the sincerity of our love.

The greatest of all gifts was Jesus’ gift of his own life for us. This, we are told in 1 John 3:15, is the very definition of love – how we know what love is. Then, in the next verse, we are told we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. In the following verse, John tells how we do this:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? – 1 John 3:17

In other words, giving demonstrates love for our brethren and for the Lord.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:1-8, presented the giving of the Macedonian church as an example to the church in Corinth. The Macedonians gave generously, eagerly, and even beyond their ability to give. But Paul concluded by saying”

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. – 2 Corinthians 8:8 (NIV)

Is it wrong to tithe? I do not think so. Yet, there is no command for the Christian to tithe. Will God be pleased with less than a tithe? That may depend on circumstances. Yet, the least He ever asked of His people was a tithe, while the most that was ever given by a mere human was her entire living – even though that was but 2 small copper coins (see Mark 13:41-44). Jesus commended her highly.

May she be the model for our giving, more than the Pharisees who tithed carefully – but neglected the more important matters of the law!

Perhaps your best answer for those who may ask why you tithe would be to tell them that it is because you love the Lord, and you sincerely believe that for you to give less than that would not be enough.


2 Responses

  1. […] the original post: QUESTION: Why Do I Tithe? « Committed To Truth Categories: Tithing Tags: abraham, abram, commandment, first-instance, god, jesus, melchizedek, […]

  2. You have made some very good points!! Another great resource that will enable one to respond to the questions that non- tithers ask is Dr. LaMonte McNeese’s book “Robbing God? Tough questions for non- tither’s. You can purchase it at http://www.lmcneese.com.

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