To Whom Does My Tithe Belong?
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
A tithe of everything…belongs to the LORD. Leviticus 27:30
“Good morning Dr. Sala,” writes a friend of Guidelines, “I have a question to ask you. I am confused about tithing, and I want to be obedient to God’s Word. I understand a tenth is required, and in Malachi 3:10 that it should be brought into the storehouse which I assume means the church. I have been giving half to church and another half [to missions]. Sometimes I don’t approve of the decisions of the church and how the money is used. What is right in God’s eyes?”
How would you answer that question? Does God have a claim to what you have? And is the church the storehouse which the prophet Malachi talked about?
Our English word tithe comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning a “tenth.” The custom of giving a tenth of one’s income to God goes back at least 3,000 years to the times of the patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all gave a tithe of their income. This, of course, was long before Baptist churches and finance committees hit upon the idea of sending weekly envelopes to church members.
The first mention of giving a tithe is found in the Old Testament when Abraham came back from the battle with the five kings and gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was “priest of God Most High,” in the words of Scripture. (See Genesis 14:18).
Abraham’s grandson also understood the importance of giving a tenth of his income to the Lord. At Bethel, following an encounter with God, Jacob set up a stone as a memorial to his spiritual experience and vowed, “…of all that you give me I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22).
When the Law was given by Moses, tithing became a standard practice. Though not always observed, it was what God expected. Moses made that clear. “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD,” he instructed in Leviticus 27:30.
A study of Old Testament history shows very clearly a parallel between times of prosperity in Israel and observing the practice of tithing. Haggai, a fifth century
BC prophet, observed, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (Haggai 1:6). Strong words!
Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, records a conversation between man and God. It goes: “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings…. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house…” (Malachi 3:8, 10).
The people of his day clearly understood what he meant. The storehouses, according to modern excavations, surrounded the temple, and the grains and foods brought to the temple provided for the priests who had the care of the great temple. But does that translate to the local church today? Should missions be above and beyond what a person does for the church? And an even more important question–does the Old Testament practice of tithing carry into the New?
Of one thing you can be certain. God’s expectations were never lowered. The question of to whom a tithe belongs is addressed so clearly when Scripture says, “A tithe of everything…belongs to the LORD” (Leviticus 27:30). A final thought: When you come to grips with God’s will for your money, you will have learned a great truth, for God is debtor to no person. Scripture tells us He is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Think about it.
Resource reading: Genesis 14:18-24