~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is a summary a sermon by Brad Ettore. You can read the whole sermon, Financial Principles of the Bible (part 5), by clicking here.
Tithing is not from the Law. Tithing existed during the period of the Law, but scripture records multiple examples of tithing prior to the Law being given to Moses (and also speaks clearly of tithing after the resurrection of Christ). Recall that God respected Abel’s offering, but did not respect Cain’s because it was not “rightly divided.” Cain gave the wrong division / percentage. Also recall Abram tithing one-tenth of all to the high priest Melchizedek. (Gen. 4) This happened roughly 630 years before Moses was given the Law by God. Similarly Jacob promised God “I am surely going to give a tenth to You!” (Gen. 28:22) We don’t have to be concerned with learning about the tithe from what was written in the Law, because we know tithing is not from the Law. The Lord reveals much about the tithe in the Law; He told Moses to write it down. There is revelation to be gained in the Law concerning the tithe even though tithing did not originate from the Law.
What is the tithe? According to the Hebrew, the tithe is quite simply “a tenth.” Tithe (in Hebrew ma’ aser) comes from the Hebrew Asar – which means 10. Adding “ma” as a prefix is like adding “th” to the end of “ten.” Ma’ aser is “tenth.” So when Abraham tithed to Melchezedeck, it was a 10th. The question of amount as it relates to tithing is self-evident from the original Hebrew word. In fact it is impossible to offer a tithe of any percentage other than 10%. If the Word of God is our final authority, God has already declared what the amount of the tithe is. It is 10%. Not 17%, 12%, 4%, or any other percent! The scriptures teach us that the tithe is not just “any old 10%” but it is our first and best 10%. You give your best 10th because the tithe is to be an act of worship – you bring your best to worship.
So the tithe is a tenth – but a tenth of what? Prov. 3:9-10 makes it clear “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9-10) The tithe is a 10th of all your increase – everything that comes into your life.
The tithe is an INVITATION from the Lord to enter into a dynamic relationship with Him as it relates to Him blessing our finances. If you never tithe, your salvation and God’s love for you is unchanged. Sometimes when we struggle with a teaching we can feel so badly that we are struggling that it is hard to simply hear the teaching from the Word. So, if this teaching is hard for you right now, just relax into it and hear the Word for what it says. No need to feel bad. Simply let the Word speak to you for what it says.
Whose is the tithe? “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” (Lev. 27:30) Notice it does not say “it will be the Lords once you give it to Him.”
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” (Mal. 3:8-9) The tithe is God’s! God says we “have robbed Him in tithes and offerings.” That means that the tithes are His because you cannot rob someone of something they did not own! This is a powerful revelation if we find ourselves struggling about deciding whether or not to give a tithe from our increase. We tend to think that question amounts to “do I want to be generous towards God or not.” But, since the tithe belongs to God while it is yet still in our possession, if we are deciding whether or not to give a tithe from our increase, the question at hand is actually “do I want to rob God?”
Where do we Tithe? Deut. 12:5-6, Deut. 14:24-25, and Deut. 26:1-3 clearly show us that God chooses where we are to take our tithes and that we are to “go to the place which the Lord chooses!” We see in Deut. 14 that the place the Lord chooses is “the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name.” And we see in Deut. 26 that when we go to “the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name” we will find a very specific person there – a priest.
So, where was the priest? He was in the temple (or tabernacle before the temple was built). The temple was the local church. Our tithes are to be given where God has chosen them to be given. And He has directed them to be given to the local church.
Did the Lord say, “give your tithe to your neighbor who is low on rent money?” Did the Lord say “give your tithe to the prophet who came into town?” How about “give your tithe to someone who is doing the work of the Lord, and is in need?” The Lord tells us where to give our tithe and it is not to any of these otherwise worthy causes – it is to our local church. Yet the Word does say to give to your neighbor who is in need, and to give to other ministers to support them. But what is that kind of giving called? That’s an offering, NOT the TITHE.
By way of example, let’s say you personally gave $100 to a friend and told him or her that it was for your mutual friend Sally. Upon receiving the $100 bill from you, your friend went and gave the money to another friend of yours, Veronica. When you followed up with your self-willed messenger they said “Veronica was in need, so I decided to give your $100 to her instead of Sally.” What would we call that? Basically, it’s theft. Your friend was entrusted with your $100 and it was to be given to Sally. When your messenger friend decided to give the money to another, they effectively took that money into their ownership (stealing it from you) and then decided to do what they wanted to do with that money.
The tithe belongs to the local church because the tithe is the Lord’s. It’s His money and He is clear in saying “take this to where I tell you to take it.” And God has told us to take the tithe to the priest – to the House of the Lord. To the temple. To the local church. The goal in presenting this message is not about blessing this ministry, but about blessing the members of this congregation with a scriptural understanding of the tithe that will bless each of us individually for years and years – even if it is well beyond the walls of this specific ministry!
In 1 Samuel 13, we learn that Samuel, the prophet, had told Saul, the king, that he would be there in 7 days to make an offering to the Lord prior to Saul and his army engaging in battle. On the 7th day, with still no sight of Samuel, Saul took matters into his own hands and made the offering to the Lord himself before Samuel arrived. Saul later recounted to Samuel “I felt compelled.” This happens to many believers as well “I felt so strongly compelled to give my tithe to that homeless woman – she needed it.” Samuel responded “you have done foolishly.” Saul had introduced self-will into the offering. God took the kingdom from him because of it. God was looking for a man wholly submitted to His Will and Saul was not. God chose David instead to establish the lineage of His Son Jesus through.
May we understand God’s Will as it relates to the tithe and take heed to bring it to the place the Lord chooses! (Deut. 12:14)