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 want to explore what one needs to consider when heeding God's Word in starting to give 10% or the tithe of one's income to God's work.
Important concepts to grasp when starting to tithe
For anyone who is a first-time giver, knowing the Bible's terminology for stewardship can be very eye-opening. A quick survey of the entire Bible reveals two interrelated terms to describe the beginning act of tithing and stewardship.
A. First-fruits. We find the term "first fruits" (for crops) or "firstlings" (for animals) used over 30 times. First fruits has to do with the "when" of giving, that is, giving the very first portion, off the top, of our gross earning. Practically speaking, whenever you cash your paycheck, taking out the tithe ought to occur before grocery money, bill money or fun money.
B. The term "tenth" used in giving situations almost 25 times and the word "tithe" used 40 times. This term speaks of the "how much" of stewardship. 10% represent the ground floor of giving. Anything beyond is "offering" and extraordinary amounts enter into the "sacrificial" giving categories. Further exposition on these categories will be given below.
Now we just mentioned what the Bible calls "offerings", which are those amounts given beyond the tithe. I would suggest that Paul's collection for the church in Jerusalem in Romans 15:25-33; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is a form of offering beyond the tithe - with the tithe assumed but not mentioned in the context.
We could also talk about what is called "sacrificial giving", that is, the type of giving that involves extraordinary proportions of one's income or even all of one's income to God's work. The woman with the "mite" or the equivalency of two pennies is an example of sacrificial giving - meaning that Jesus commended her for "giving everything" (see Mark 12:41-44).
Now I only mention these other concepts to drive home the point that the level of "tithing" one's income is not the goal, but the ground-floor of Biblical stewardship. It is at this entry-level that one is able to hear God in terms of how they are to proceed with their finances and resources. At first it may seem hard, however, once you get in the practice of giving the tithe - you will find yourself gradually wanting to give above that level - whether of offerings or even the rarer but exceptional sacrificial level.
Meet three first-time tithers in the Bible: Abel, Abraham and Jacob
Three ancient believers mentioned in Genesis could be termed "the Bible's first tithers".
The second first-time tither is Abram in Genesis 14:20. 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.
Closing thoughts for today
More could be said about what to consider when starting out to give of one's tithe in stewardship to the Lord. For now at least, we have a solid, Biblical foundation to build upon as we seek to follow the Lord in giving to His work. We saw how tithing and first-fruits are interrelated concepts. We also saw how tithing represents the ground-level at which one enters when taking to heart God's promises in the realm of finances. Then finally, we saw three illustrations of first-time tithers (Abel, Abram and Jacob). May this post prove helpful to those who are desiring to know better what God has to say in terms of tithing and stewardship.