Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
In today's post we will explore what is perhaps the most often confused aspect of the discussion over tithing and stewardship - namely: should Christians tithe?
Meet the Bible's first tithers
A quick survey of the entire Bible reveals that three closely related terms are used to describe the act of tithing. We find the term "first fruits" (for crops) or "firstlings" (for animals) used over 30 times; the term "tenth" used in giving situations almost 25 times and the word "tithe" used 40 times. Three ancient believers mentioned in Genesis could be termed "the Bible's first tithers".
The first is Abel. In Genesis 4:4 "Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering." Quite literally, God decided to bless Abel for the fact he had brought the "first" or the "best" to God. The principle of first fruits or firstling is connected to "tithing" in passages such as Deuteronomy 18:4,12,21,24.
Genesis 14:20 is where we see the second tither, Abraham. This passage is significant being that it is the first mention of the term "tithe" in the Bible. God gave Abraham a mighty victory over the confederation of the five kings of Chedorlaomer. As Abraham returns from battle, he meets the mysterious figure Melchizedek, whom according to Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5-7 is none other than a pre-incarnate (before the flesh) appearance of Jesus Christ. As Melchizedek blesses Abraham, we read in Genesis 14:18-20 "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. (19) He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; (20) And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all." There we see Abram giving Melechizedek, Who is Christ in disguise, a tenth of the spoils of victory.
The third tither in the early Biblical record is Abraham's grandson Jacob. Genesis 28:22 reads: "This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” Just as his grandfather before him, Jacob had "believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness" (compare Genesis 15:6). Undoubtedly we can say that Genesis 28 marks Jacob's conversion. What is one of the first-fruits that a change has occurred in Jacob's life? How he views his possessions! It is in this text where we see the word "tenth" used, which is the exact meaning of the word "tithe" and of course is associated with the term "first-fruits". All three of these early "tithers" are significant being that they establish God's pattern for giving hundreds of years before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
Following tithing throughout the Bible
As you read through scripture, the particular word "tithe" or "tithing" occurs more than forty times. The last time we find it mentioned in the Old Testament is in Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Now many well-meaning Christians assume that tithing was nothing more than an Old Testament regulation, given by God under the period of the Law. Often I have heard Christians say that since we are no longer under law but under grace, that means we can now give whatever we want, since tithing went away once Christ had died on the cross.
Is that true? Did Jesus' death, burial and resurrection do away with the standard of tithing? Whenever studying both the Old and New Testaments, unless God has either removed or replaced a given institution or command, we can assume that the command or institution carries forth from Old to New Testament.
For example, the Levitical priesthood was done away with when Christ came, since His priesthood is of a different order. (Hebrews 7-10) We also don't sacrifice animals due to the fact that Christ's subsitutionary death satisfied the wrath of God against the sins of those who receive His work by grace through faith. (1 Peter 3:18)
Now whenever we come to the New Testament, we discover not one prohibition against tithing. The standard of 10% was ordained by God some 400 or so years before the giving of the law. Abel, Abraham and Jacob were tithing millennia before Christ and centuries before the giving of the law. The law of God served to reinforce the standard, however when Christ came, the standard was never removed nor replaced.
In studying the over 100 passages that speak on the subject of stewardship and tithing, here is what we discover:
1. A person is free to give whatever they want (offering) only after they have been already tithing.
2. Tithing represents the most basic level of stewardship, the ground floor if you will. Whenever we begin to tithe is whenever we begin to hear God in the realm of giving.
3. Wherever the believer is told to give freely as to whatever amount He feels necessary to give, it can be assumed that the believer has already been tithing. (2 Corinthians 9:6-10)
The Bible's final mention of tithing
Remember where we first met the word tithing? Recall Abraham in Genesis 14 as the first recorded tither? In this blogger's mind, the main proof we have that tithing is still the basic standard undergirding the New Testament teaching of Biblical stewardship is found in Hebrews 7:5-10, the final mention of the concept in the Bible: "And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him."
Five times is the word "tenth" or "tithe" or "tithes" used in this New Testament text! Furthermore, the final mention of tithing in the Bible connects to the first mention! Thirdly, we who have believed on Jesus Christ are considered children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:16). Fourthly, Christ, who lives today, received a tithe from Abraham. (Hebrews7:8) Fifthly, in a chapter like Hebrews 7, wherein the writer is showing how Christ is superior to all of the Old Testament Jewish institutions, he never once shows tithing to be abolished!
With the validity of tithing established throughout scripture, what can we conclude? Should Christians tithe? Yes, and here is why: First, tithing was instituted pre-law, hence it is a standard that was not abolished despite the doing way of the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. Second, the New Testament never one time shows tithing as being either prohibited, replaced or removed from the Christian's responsibility of stewardship. Thirdly, tithing is the standard established by God as the starting point for stewardship. Then finally, Hebrews 7 reveals that tithing is still mentioned in the New Testament, not abolished, and thus there is no reason to prohibit Christians from tithing.
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