Tithing? For what?
Tithing? For what?

Tithing? For what?

Tithing is a partnership with God, when least contributor retains major share and willingly and thankfully gives a small bit  for continuous future abundance.

                             Tithing is the most feared and debated word in the church today with the excuse that there is simply not enough to make ends meet. “Is the Lord’s arm too short” (Numbers 11:23) or has our arm become too short? Many old church building have been demolished or sold out to realtors for the parish could not manage these for want of funds and parishioners. Our Lord had a group of women and others who supported His ministry through various measures and the Lord also emphasized giving not only alms to the poor but also in the ‘House of God’. “Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how people put money into the treasury” and he saw a poor widow putting in her two mites- ‘all that she had’. The Lord commended her for “this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty, put in all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:41-44). The rich young ruler was advised by Him to give all to the poor and follow Him, “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

The Lord’s command to tithe in Malachi 3:10 is countermanded by many that the Law of Moses as contained in the Old Testament has been fulfilled on the cross and does not apply in the New Testament life of grace and mercy. Is tithing merely a Law of Moses or something more than this? The concept of tithe predates the Law and the first instance of this is described in the giving of tithe by Abram to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20). Why did Abram give ‘a tenth of everything’ to the ‘king of Salem’? First, Is the ‘bread and wine’ brought out by the ‘king and priest of God Most High’. Abram rechristened Abraham “was called the friend of God” (James 2:23) for he lived in agreement with God and could be depended upon by God to obey and share His plan. “The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:17) and the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah was shared with him by God.

Further God revealed the plan of redemption of mankind to ‘His friend’ and Abraham joyfully took his heir and son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice. The gifts of bread and wine represented what was to come as Holy Communion in the New Testament period as the body and blood of Jesus and Abraham revered that gift from Melchizedek. Paying of tithe was an act of gratitude not only for God Most High ‘delivered your enemies into your hand’ but for the act of salvation that was coming. The Lord blesses the followers similarly “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

What is tithing?- The Hebrew word ‘maaser, maasar or maasrah’ or the Greek word ‘dekate’ essentially stand for a tenth part for the whole but the Greek word specifies this tenth part to be ‘the first part’ of the whole. Thus by implication the part dedicated as an offering to God is essentially the first part and it is in consonance with the Old Testament command of bringing the ‘first fruits of your crops’ to God. Tithing is a thanks offering to God for what He has done as also for what is to come. Abraham gave tithe for the institution of Holy Communion that was to be started by the Son of God thousands of years later. Malachi 3:10 emphasizes the same principle of thanking for the future “Test Me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out  so much blessings that there will not be room enough to store it”.

Tithing is the act of acknowledging a partnership with God, wherein the least contributor retains the major share and willingly, cheerfully and thankfully gives a small bit to God for continuous future abundance.

Abraham gave ‘tenth of everything’ to Melchizedek who was a metaphor for the Priesthood of our Lord and the gifts of bread and wine represent the same blessings to Abraham. Thus the offering constitutes a tenth of everything, before or after taxes, is to be worked out by the giver, for God is not desirous of our money but the spirit of giving. That is the reason for commendation of the poor widow by the Lord for giving her two mites.

New Testament and tithing- the doctrine of tithing is believed to be of no value to the Christians by many on the ground that the Law has been abolished through its fulfillment on the cross. The Scriptures quoted is “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). What has been nailed to the cross is ‘self effort towards righteousness’ which has been fulfilled by the Lord’s sacrifice, but does it mean that all of Old Testament is no longer relevant today.

To negate the importance of the Old Testament Paul’s words are quoted, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). That we may learn from the study of the Scriptures and find comfort and hope- but what use is learning if it is not put to use to glorify the Lord and His kingdom.

Right from the period of the Garden of Eden, God has taken various measures to reveal Himself- first through personal visits, then through the Law as to what pleased or offended Him and then through His Son. The Law as pertaining to offering of sacrificial offerings, which were for forgiveness of sins, was fulfilled in the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. Through faith in Him we are made the children of God and thus acquire the right to go to Him before His throne. This right to be in His presence does not condone the requirement of taking an offering to Him. This is not to please Him through our gifts but as an act of thankfulness and reverence.

Cain and Abel did not have any command to bring gifts to God nor did God require Hannah to offer her first child Samuel to be a servant of the Lord in His Temple, but they did this as an act of thankfulness for what God had done for them. God’s Word is clear “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor Me” (Psalm 50:23). Honoring God did not end on the cross nor did the offering of thanks; rather it has become all the more necessary for what He has done for us through the sacrifice of the Lord. The Lord did not condemn the Pharisees for tithing but for trivializing it and claiming this to be a right to be counted as righteous (Luke 18:12). The command is categorical “You pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). Lord Jesus did not say, do not give tithe, but laid emphasis on the other things also to be added to this and to not consider tithing above everything else.

Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament on very few occasions and in Hebrews 7 further clarification is provided about this issue. In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi received tithes but we now have the Lord as our High Priest “Who does not require daily, as those High Priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this he did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27). The new High Priest offered Himself and cancelled out the need for daily sacrifices. How much should we be grateful to Him for freeing us from the daily practice! And the tithe has to be used for His kingdom and fulfillment of His command to go and baptize all nations. The priests earlier were collecting tithes for the new High Priest which He now desires for Himself and for His kingdom. Our Lord has paid the price for getting us free from the clutches of Satan and “Now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). WE are now ‘slaves of God’ and Luke 19:11-26 has the Lord describing the duty of the slaves “to use the minas (gifts) given by God and earn for Him’. He has the first right on what we have and giving tithe is giving only part of what is His.

Having established the need to tithe for the Christians, let us see the other aspects of tithing-

  1. Time of giving-The command is to bring first fruits and not leftovers to God. It is therefore imperative that His share is taken out immediately on receipt of His blessings- pay or business earnings etc.
  2. House of God– The command is to bring tithes to “My House” and not anywhere else. God’s house is one where His Word is preached, His commands met and the needy cared for. If your local church does not meet all needs then part may be given to any other ministry that ‘reaches out to the unreached’.
  3. What all is tithe– Tithe is all that we have from God and includes not only the financial gifts but also our life itself. In addition to money, make an endeavor to reach out to others, help the needy and share the ‘love of God’ with others in whatever way possible. Tithe is thus sparing time also for His kingdom work.
  4. How much should we give– The quantity to give has been laid out by the Lord Himself- give like the widow; more than we can afford. Solomon’s advice is “Cast your bread on the sea, after many days you may receive a return” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). This is sowing with no intention of reaping a rich reward, for God will give in His mercy much more than we expected.
  5. Way of giving– While overlooking the treasury in the Temple, the Lord praised the poor widow for her act of giving all that she had. Zacchaeus, the tax collector of Jericho climbed a tree to see Jesus and on hearing the Lord’s command to come down “He made haste and came down received Him joyfully”. The three acts of making haste, coming down and receiving Him joyfully display his attitude and it is further on display in the act of retribution and helping the poor. The blessing from the Lord was immediate “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:2, 6, 8-9). The motive and attitude are both important to God. For He searches our hearts and does not require our tithes given “grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  6. What if we miss giving– The very first part of the Lord’s prayer is “Our Father” and as Father who is All Knowing, God is well aware of our trials and is willing to forgive our faults, unless we become a habitual offender. The Old Testament required addition of 20% to the defaulted amount for a loan but seeking forgiveness for our failure from God should now suffice for He loves us. If for some reason money is short for a particular month, compensate through community service or some other way in the Church, though this is not a general rule but an exception.

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:14-15). All giving to God is an act of gratitude for what is with us as well as to thank Him for what is coming our way in the future. He is willing to be tested by us through our tithes and offerings to bless us.

                 “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine” and He is willing and waiting. As ambassadors of God are we willing to be molded in “His image and likeness” – one who gives exceedingly abundantly to those who seek Him.  


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