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A Brief History of the Tithe · The Free Believers Network
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Jul 19, 2010

A Brief History of the Tithe


by Stephen Alexander

 

Under the Old Covenant God made with the children of Israel, he commanded various ordinances pertaining to the institution of the temple with its attendant Priests and Levites. One of these ordinances was the tithe. The tithe consisted of 10% of what the land produced as crops of grain and fruit and what the Israelite herds produced as offspring. 

The nation of Israel was roughly 180 miles long and 60 miles wide and was divided between the tribes with the tribe of Levi being excluded from the land inheritance. In order to provide for the Levites, one tenth of what was produced on the other tribal homelands was given to them so that they would have food for themselves and their families in the Levitical cities where they lived. Likewise, each year one in ten of what was born to the Israelite herds was given to them. After the Levites received their annual share, they selected the best tenth of what they received and gave it to the descendents of Aaron who were the Priests. The tithe of food is the way God provided for the Priests and Levites who had no way to keep sustaining crops or producing herds. 

The tithe went into effect after the Children of Israel entered their promised inheritance, the land of Canaan. As they wandered in the desert wastes prior to their entry into the land God had promised them, the Priests and Levites ate manna like everyone else. 

When considering the Old Covenant tithe it is important to remember that only those people who owned producing land and herds paid the tithe of food. There was no such thing as a tithe of money. Poor people, even if they owned producing land and herds, did not tithe the increase of their land since everything they had was necessary for their survival. In fact, poor people were included along with the Priests and Levites as recipients of the tithe. Jesus was a carpenter, Peter was a fisherman and Paul was a tentmaker and though they paid the two drachma temple tax, they did not tithe. Jesus was not subject to the tithe ordinance for two reasons. He was a carpenter and he was poor. 

Tithing as God commanded it belongs exclusively within the Old Covenant context. The whole Old Covenant system is no longer in force today. Even if the Levites and the descendents of Aaron could be identified, there is no Temple in which they can perform the Old Covenant rituals. But this system of meeting with God is no longer necessary. Through the person and work of Jesus, a better Priesthood has been established in the New Covenant. 

Jesus is the New Covenant High Priest who, on the basis of his perfection and indestructible life, serves perpetually in the holy place, not just once a year. And while the children of Israel could not approach their temple without forfeiting their life, all believers in Jesus constitute a royal priesthood based on their union with him as brothers and sisters and can freely approach and meet with God. Indeed, believer's bodies are the temple of God in which he dwells by his Spirit. 

Using the resources God has given us we have the blessing of helping those in need. We also have the blessing of furthering the spread of the Gospel through the shrewd use of money. 

Not every ministry is properly grounded or is using money effectively. Some ministries promote a questionable lifestyle with unsound doctrine. Some ministries are more spiritually effective than others, producing a tremendous spiritual return for the resources spent. Jesus tells us to be shrewd with worldly wealth, using it wisely to win for ourselves friends for eternity. Financially supporting an obviously God initiated and empowered ministry is our joy. In this way we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

 


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Comments

  1. Gravatar
    Jose

    the tithe existed way before the law. Gen. 14:20 just saying. :)

  2. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Just because Abraham gave him 10%, that doesn't mean it was a "tithe." This was plunder, NOT earnings. It really had nothing to do with tithing. We act like it was tithe because it happened to be 10%, but it really had nothing to do with tithing. The guy he gave the money too wasn't even a Jewish priest.

  3. Gravatar
    brian

    you rock dude

  4. Gravatar
    KAZ

    the problem is that people use the word "tithe" and it means different things. firstly it means a tenth of course. However, the word "tithe" took on another meaning once it became mandatory following the definition within the Law. Those who quote Abraham, Jacob and Leviticus and do not see that there is no difference between the three has not understand this differnce. That is why it is correct to say that Abraham gave a tithe of his plunder as he gave a tenth. I once told a friend who quote Abraham as an example that if we have to live the tithe as Abraham did, then I am all for that. I am 52 years of age and never had any plunder so I should never tithe. suffice to say, that did not go down too well:)

  5. Gravatar
    Ruth

    Great article and so true. Keep setting people free with the truth of the whole counsel of the Word.

  6. Gravatar
    sergey fox

    In genesis 14 we see Abram blessing melchizidek for the high priest prophecying over him(Abram). This was a thank you offering that occurred in the ancient world as a sign of friendship and peace. You could say this was a peace offering at most. This practice was common in ancient times. The tithe was an offering to God for worship but Abram gave as a thanks for being blessed after the battle. Plus in tithing, tithing led to a big feast of all families giving to God we do not see that happening in genesis 14.

  7. Gravatar
    Clif

    Are Tithes for today. In Matthew 23: 23. Jesus in His OWN WORDS says TITHES are LAW. I vote for Jesus above the doctrines and traditions of men. Now if one is co-erced under Law and the threat of curses to comply, you are placing yourself under the Law, let alone negating the whole of Hebrews 7 & 8 and galatians 3. Now Paul stated and for OUR attention repeated that those who place themselves under the Law are under the curse of, they have rejected grace and Christ is no good to them. They are under Law and by which they will be judged.

  8. Gravatar
    Les

    I often ask people to ask their Pastors to show in scripture where Jesus paid tithes. They of course can't. Being a Christian means following the example of Jesus. Jesus said give and it shall be given unto you... My point is he didn't tithe nor could receive a tithe (He was not a Levite). Therefore we are not obligated to tithe just to give based on how God has blessed us. As far as Abraham is concerned there is only one documentation of his tithing and no more. His son tithed once and there is no other reference in scripture of him doing it again. My point is you can't make a doctrine and tradition out of something unless it is established by two or more scriptures. People who use Abraham saying he preceded the law therefore we should tithe have not read their Bible. I'm taught tithing once does not make one a tither. So again was Abraham really a tither I say not. Let's do what the Bible says and let's be cheerful givers and give from your heart. Study to show thyself approved.

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