Christian Giving: Tithes, Gifts, Vows and Offerings
[all that you ever wanted to know about tithing but were afraid to ask]
Many of us have sat through a multitude of sermons about tithing and/or Christian giving. I have seen many articles on the Internet encouraging Christians to TITHE (give 10% or upwards of their income). I have seen, conversely, many articles explaining that New testament Christians are NOT required to TITHE. Then the question comes in on gifts, offerings, vows, care of the poor, widows and ministry.
What is the truth on this subject? I think to focus on the term 'tithe' alone can cause one to be deceived by the Devil's devices. We must look at the whole matter of giving to God and not isolate ourselves to the technicality of the word "tithe."
I like to 'cut to the quick,' if I may use that term, and get to the heart of the matter. Allow me to state, what I believe is the BIBLICAL stance at the end of it all: A Believer should be ready, of a willing heart, to give, any and all, that he or she has in devotion to the Lord, to help the poor and the widows, to help proclaim the gospel and feed the flock. And, yes, I can prove that statement with scripture. We are not our own for we, ourselves, were bought with a price (the highest price ever paid!)
We know that, as followers of Messiah, that we are to care for the widows, the poor, those who minister in the word, and wherever else there is need. (We will get into some of these scriptures a bit later in this article.) So then the question, for some, really becomes not "should I give" but "is what I give referred to as 'a tithe?'"
I think, first, we must further define what the person speaking means by TITHING. Technically, "tithes", as used in scripture, are only on produce and animals used for food. We will cover that below. The general principle of the Jewish Talmudic interpretation of tithing was that "everything that is eaten, that is watched over, and that grows out of the earth" must be tithed (Ma`aseroth 1 1). So does that mean a believer who does not grow their own food doesn't have to give to the Lord? Some people believe that to be true - but I will show you contrariwise. Did a tentmaker or ironsmith not have to give to God then? They may not have to give (technically) a TITHE (field produce and livestock, poultry) to a ministry organization but how could they observe the feasts of the Lord (eat and drink in His presence) if they did not save "a tithe" or buy provision to do so? The Israelites were required to bring OFFERINGS for sin (giving of your animals for this cost you, didn't it?) whether they were farmers or not. Aside from tithes for Levites, poor and festivals, they were required to fulfill any VOWS they said they would voluntarily do. They are also to voluntarily give of their increase of all their substance (not called a tithe).
Let us examine some of the topics normally discussed when the subject of "tithes" comes up. The first bible passage used to support "tithes' is involving Abram and a second involving Jacob.
There was no recorded commandment/s requiring Abraham or Jacob to give a tithe. Abraham gave a tithe from war booty and Jacob gave a tithe of all he had after returning to his father's house. There are no Scripture passages which say that God told Abraham to pay a tithe (the Law of Moses did not begin until four centuries later - see Galatians 3:16-17). There are no Scripture passages which say that Abraham ever tithed before, or after, he tithed to Melchizedek. There are also no passages that say Abraham did not tithe or give of his substance regularly. (It is always good to study the same object from many angles.)
Genesis 14:14-20 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
Many read this passage and point out (rightfully so) that Abram was giving a tithe on his war booty - a one time offering. If the scripture offered no further record on this we could soundly conclude that this had nothing to do with 'tithing." Yet the writer of the Book of Hebrews connects for us two different offerings - Abram's tenth and the Levitical Tithe.
Hebrews 7:4-10 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
Hebrews 7:11-17 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Technically, one can see that ... if the office of the priesthood changed from Levi (who were originally substituted for the firstborn of all tribes anyway) to Christ's Melchizedekian priesthood (which it did) -- then would not the spirit of the law of the priestly tithe also go to Christ (who dwells in us and is the Firstborn of many brethren) to provide for the Church of the Firstborn? But one may also say "wasn't Abram's 'tenth' a voluntary offering?" Yes, it was. Actually Abraham gave 10% to Melchizedek and 90% to the King of Sodom and those men who assisted in Abram's conquest) because he didn't want the King to think it was his doing to make Abraham rich. (Abraham trusted God and did not lust after the treasures gained in this battle!)
Genesis 14:21-24 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
The Book of Hebrews does connect the voluntary tenth of Abraham with the compulsory tithe received by the Levites. Abraham, the “father of all those who believe” (Romans 4:11), tithed on the spoils of war. Does this indicate that tithing is not a principle limited to the increase from agricultural production, but is on all of a person’s increase, from whatever source, because God is the ultimate giver of any increase? Abraham obviously understood that tithing was an appropriate way of honoring God with one’s physical possessions. Had God revealed a law of tithing to Abraham, and Abraham obeyed, as he strove to obey all of God’s laws (Genesis 26:5)? The Genesis passage does not tell us what organizations want us to hear. Clearly, the tithe of Abraham passage doesn't claim that all Believers must pay a tithe or vow an amount to the Lord ... or not. To be honest, it is silent either way.
Genesis 28:20-22 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Jacob also made a voluntary oath to give to YHWH a tenth. Does that mean a tenth of what he had at the time he returned "to his father's house in peace'? Does that mean a tenth of all his increase for his entire life? We are not specifically told in the text. We are, however, told that Jacob intended to give this "tenth" directly to God. How do you think he would accomplish such a thing? He clearly pledges the alms to God and His house. Would he do this by setting aside a tenth to use for the worship of God? Like the price of sacrificial animals? Drink or oil offerings? (we know he built altars) Or for the care of the poor he encounters? The scriptures do not say.
Jacob's name was changed to Israel. He fathered the tribes that would be become the nation of Israel. Is it not INTERESTING that the people of Israel were required by God's word to give a TENTH? Could this be the fulfilling, through the children, of the vow to give a TENTH made by Jacob (Israel)?
The following passage, we freely admit, is used primarily by many churches and ministries to exact tithes of money into their coffers.
Malachi 3:8-12 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
Based on this passage, many people teach that we are robbing God when we don't pay 10% of our income and that we are placing ourselves under a curse when we don't tithe in that specific manner. It is a fact that God here commanded His people to bring all of their tithes into "the storehouse of God." God tells us to "test" Him in the matter of tithes and offerings and see that God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out abundant blessings. Notice that the above passage says that the "tithes" are to be for "meat" (King James English for "food") in His house. As we shall see, in the scriptures, the Leviticus appointed "Tithe" is referring to food.
There are some who will point to the 'tithes' alone in Mal 3 but neglect to see the 'offerings' are also missing from God's house. We will take a brief look at those as well after we sort through Tithes and tithing.
TITHE IN THE TORAH
Here is the first commandment in the Old Testament concerning tithing:
Leviticus 27:30-33 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 unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.
To paint a fuller picture, Lev 27 also speaks to redeeming all firstborn for money or giving them up to be sold and money given to the Lord. In addition, Lev 27 details voluntary vows a person makes that requires the purchasing back (redeeming) of said item(s) with money. These are other things the Israelites did to honor the Lord with their substance besides the tithe.
In the above passage, notice that the Israelites were specifically commanded to tithe from the land and from the flock. We see that the Israelites' tithes were always meant to be edible. People were never meant to "tithe" in the form of money, and verse 31 (above) specifically says that if an Israelite chose to redeem (buy back) any of his edible tithes then he must add 20% (one-fifth) to the value of his edible tithes after he had tithed from his produce. (This is only referring to the term "Tithe" as the scripture shows support of the Tabernacle/Temple/Ministries in other gifts and offerings.) The tithe of this foodstuff was also deemed 'holy to the Lord.'
One must realize that all of Israel paid tithes so the question must arise "How does someone who does not grow grain, fruits or vegetables or practice animal husbandry give a tithe?" I assume these people did indeed buy or barter food to eat (or else they would die) ... and so when they purchased or traded for food (i.e. chickens, doves, goats, lamb, corn, oil, grapes/wine, etc) they also would end up with produce or animals to tithe off of now, wouldn't they? Only the 'have-nots" which included the Levite and the poor (which included sub-groups of widows, orphans and strangers) received the tithes rather than paying in tithes. This means the rest of the 11 tribes who 'had' - were expected to give of the cattle and game; the poultry; the agricultural produce otherwise known as "foodstuffs," "consumables" or in our day "groceries."
The tithe was meant to be eaten while rejoicing before the Lord and to also "fill God's storehouse" so that all could share in the blessings of His provision.
One purpose of this tithe was to support the Israelite tribe of Levi (the Levites) with food, because the tithes from the other Israelite tribes were the Levites' inheritance in return for the work that they did while serving at the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 18 verses 21 and 24). The tribe of Levi had no inheritance in the land so they needed foodstuffs from the other tribes. Another purpose for tithes was for the Feasts of the Lord. And yet another purpose was for the poor and the widow. (Notice we said "purpose of THE tithe" not number of tithes.) Lets look at all these purposes.
THE LEVITES AND THE PRIESTHOOD
Numbers 18:21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Numbers 18:24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
Of the SAME tithe from all the congregation received by the Levites, they in turn gave a tithe of that tithe (1/100 of the original amount) to the priests (House of Aaron). Read it in Numbers 18.
Numbers 18:26-32 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. 32 And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.
The tithe which was given to Aaron the priest was "reckoned" as if the Levites had tithed from the land (verses 27 and 30). In this way, the Levites were able to tithe something edible and avoid sinning. After the Levites received the tithes from all of Israel and then presented the best 10% of those tithes to Aaron the priest, the Levites and their families ate the remaining 90% of "the Lord's Tithe" as their wages (verse 31). The tithes were never meant to be paid in the form of money, the tithes were always meant to be eaten.
How often did the Levite receive this tithe? Notice it does not say "year by year" or "Feast to Feast." Lets look at the festival tithe and then we will answer this question.
Deuteronomy 12:6-7 And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
Rejoicing 'in all you put your hand to' is a Hebrew term also used in passages referring to monetary gain. Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest <mishlowach> thine hand <yad> to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
The truth of the matter is that more than 'the tithe' was to be brought to the Feast. We see burnt offerings and sacrifices. We see tithes and heave offerings for the priests. We see vows and freewill offerings. We see the firstborn of the animals.
Deuteronomy 12:11-12 Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD: And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
Now, at the Feasts, we are commanded to eat "the tithe." We are also told to share with the Levite.
Deuteronomy 12:17-19 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.
The Festivals were to be observed every year in their season and "the tithe" was to be eaten at them (they were all three harvest festivals).
Deuteronomy 14:22-27 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
The Jewish, and also most of the Church of God, understanding has been that there were actually 3 separate tithes or 30%. They also place the distinction that 10% of all your income - not just your food budget - was to be given to each of three separate funds. The following excerpt is from a doctrinal paper published the United CoG; although the same reasoning is present in most of the churches of our genre:
"The common thread through the ages is that the “first” tithe has been used for the furtherance of the work of God on the earth. None of this tithe is to be consumed or used personally by the individual tithe payer. It is holy to God, and to be paid in its entirety for the furtherance of the work of God, under the oversight of those God chooses and designates to direct His work on the earth. ..."
"God has determined that an important part of our worship and spiritual education is the observance of His seven annual festivals. These are holy convocations in designated places normally some distance from the homes of His people. To insure that His people have the financial resources to attend these observances each year, God has given further instruction regarding tithing. The Bible describes another tithe, a “second” tithe. This tithe, also one-tenth of a person’s annual increase, is for quite a different purpose than the “first” tithe. The second tithe is to be consumed and enjoyed by the tithe payer in the process of observing the seven annual festivals of God. It is not paid to God’s designated recipients of the first tithe, but instead is used by the individual and his family to rejoice before God, enjoying the abundance of good physical things (Deuteronomy 12:18; 14:22-26)."
"Finally, God details a “third” tithe, which is to be paid in the third and sixth years of a seven year cycle (Deuteronomy 14:28; 26:12). Like the first tithe, it is not for the individual’s personal use. It is to be paid, not consumed, by the tithe payer. But it is for a different purpose than the other tithes. It is for the support and care of the poor—especially widows and orphans."
The common belief is three 10% mandatory taxes such as "In the OT, the Lord's tithe (Lev. 27:30), the festival tithe (Deut. 12:10, 11), and the tithe for the poor (Deut. 14:28, 29), were all compulsory." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.403, emphasis added)
The bible seems to paint a different picture if you take the time to read it in context and pray for understanding. As we already saw, year by year, "THE TITHE" was to be EATEN at the FEASTS. It was also to be shared with the Levites during the Feasts. So when did the Levites receive the whole tithe as outlined in Numbers 18? You couldn't eat "THE tithe' and give "THE whole tithe' at the same time. By this, some have concluded that there was a second tithe collected but we do not technically read such in the scriptures. Remember, you already are sharing with the Levite in your three annual feasts.
THE YEAR OF TITHING
This passage says that at the culmination of the third year (assumption that it is the third year in a seven year sabbatical cycle or possibly every third year in that cycle), the Israelites must take the edible tithes from that year's produce and animals and store it in their towns so that the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows could eat and be satisfied. This is incorrectly called the third tithe or "the Poor Tithe." Actually it is the THIRD YEAR TITHE (not Third tithe). It occurs in THE YEAR OF TITHING (therefore meaning the rest of the years were NOT 'years of tithing'.) Again, the tithes were always meant to be eaten, and notice in this passage that the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows did NOT seem to pay any tithes because they were the ones who were receiving and eating the Israelites' tithes.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible: Deuteronomy 14:28 The tithe thus directed in the third year to be dispensed in charity at home, was not paid in addition to that in other years bestowed on the sacred meals, but was substituted for it. The three years would count from the sabbatical year (see the next chapter), in which year there would of course be neither payment of tithe nor celebration of the feasts at the sanctuary. In the third year and sixth year of the septennial cycle the feasts would be superseded by the private hospitality enjoined in these verses. [TOTW does not agree that the Feasts were not kept. They had to be kept with the other types of offerings but without "the tithe.' .i.e Deut 12:6 "...your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks.." ]
Deuteronomy 26:12-14 When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them: I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me.
Amos 4:4-5 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Year by year in a sabbatical cycle, a single TITHE of food stores was to be used by those who had food (from 11 of the 12 tribes) for FEASTING. This would be a lot of food! During these triannual (three times a year) feasts, they were to take care of the poor and the widow and not neglect the Levite tribe (12th).
Now, in the third year, the same whole TITHE was to be given to the Levites to store in the Storehouse for dispersal to those in need. This was ELEVEN TRIBES worth of food tithes! This would be HEAPS of food that would last years to take care of one tribe plus the 'have-nots'. The Levites gave the Priests a tithe of that tithe for their food. The rest of the tithe, the Levites used for themselves, the poor, the fatherless (orphans), the widows and even the stranger to EAT as daily provision. If the Feasts were to be kept the third year, and there is no reason to believe they were not observed in the third year, then a second provision must be stored up that year (a SECOND tithe) to eat at the feast since the whole FIRST (only) TITHE was given away and not to be eaten by themselves.
Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.) Also in Luke 11:42 "But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Notice that Jesus described spices and garden herbs as an example of the Pharisees' tithes. Under the Law of Moses, tithes were never meant to be paid in the form of money because the tithes were always meant to be eaten.
Psalms 107:31-38 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
Voluntary Gifts, Vows and Offerings
One of the best scriptures I can offer you to show you that YHWH wants you to give freely (since its all His anyways) and voluntarily involve a Hebrew word that is not tied to 'the tithe.' I think the use of this word clearly spells out what possessions a Believer should be honoring God with. It is the word rendered as "thy substance" in Proverbs 3:9
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honour the LORD with thy substance, AND with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Strong's Hebrew Dictionary 1952. hown Nwh hown hone from the same as 1951 in the sense of 202; wealth; by implication, enough:--enough, + for nought, riches, substance, wealth. See Hebrew 1951 See Hebrew 202
A quick look at the roots of this compound word show it means "be ready to give of all your ability, wealth, power, goods, strength and substance." Strong's Hebrew Dictionary 1951. huwn Nwh huwn hoon a primitive root; properly, to be naught, i.e. (figuratively) to be (causatively, act) light:--be ready. Strong's Hebrew Dictionary 202. 'own Nwa 'own one probably from the same as 205 (in the sense of effort, but successful); ability, power, (figuratively) wealth:--force, goods, might, strength, substance.
Other uses of "hown" show it means all your substance -- everything you have -- your wealth and possessions. This is not every occurrence of the word but a sampling to definitively show the point.
Psalms 112:3 Wealth (hown) and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
Psalms 119:14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches (hown) .
Proverbs 1:13 We shall find all precious substance (hown), we shall fill our houses with spoil:
Proverbs 6:30-31 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance (hown) of his house.
Proverbs 8:18 Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches (hown) and righteousness.
Proverbs 10:15 The rich man's wealth (hown) is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches (hown) profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
Proverbs 13:11 Wealth (hown) gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
Proverbs 28:7-9 Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance (hown) he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor. He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Ezekiel 27:12 Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches (hown); with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.
I think this next one has a depth of meaning to the point in question:
Proverbs 13:7 There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches (hown).
In Proverbs 3:9, Solomon states that honoring God with our substance (wealth) and with the best part of our increase will result in prosperity. (He means from-the-heart giving, not out of a heart seeking physical prosperity.) How do we honor God with our wealth and the first fruits of our increase? Is there something that we have to do specifically or in principle? Since honoring God involves the expression of the high regard and respect that we have for Him then it would seem reasonable to say that doing something with our wealth that would demonstrate this high regard is a way of honoring God. We honor God with our wealth by using our wealth to demonstrate the high regard and respect we have for God in our lives or to "give God a good reputation." Our abundant giving brings honor to God because the recipients of our gifts realize that God is behind our giving because of our confession. In other words, you make it known that you are an agent for God when you give. The light (Christ in us) that shines (our good works) bring honor to God (See Matthew 5:16). The point is that we express the high regard that we have for God by our giving - which is a way to let our light shine.
What exactly is meant by our "increase"?
INCREASE Strong's Hebrew Dictionary 8393. t@buw'ah hawbt t@buw'ah teb-oo-aw'from 935; income, i.e. produce (literally or figuratively):--fruit, gain, increase, revenue.
Proverbs 15:6 In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues (tabuwah- showing not just produce but produce is the analogy of the deeper meaning) of the wicked is trouble.
Proverbs 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
The Needs of the Body (The Saints)
Taking care of the saints physical needs is what the following scripture is referring to in context.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
The collection for Christians in Jerusalem was taken up because of a dearth (famine) in the land causing many to go hungry. I will use the NLT translation for ease of understanding here:
Again, notice that Paul did not chastise them for not paying their "tithes", and he did not tell them to give offerings above and beyond their tithes, and he did not tell them to use 10% as a starting point (or a limit set) for their giving, and he did not tell them to give the "firstfruits" of their earnings, and so on. These things are not found anywhere in the New Testament after the crucifixion. HOWEVER ...he did make it clear that a transformed (converted) person will show their fruits of love by their works. That they, of a willing heart, should give to help the saints in any kind of need.
Romans 15:26-27 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
This was concerning the poor among the Believers. The notes in the Geneva Bible add: 11. Alms are voluntary, but yet we at the same time owe these by the law of charity.
Proverbs 3:27-28 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
James 2:14-18 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Many of these same scriptures tell us to only GIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS. An important verse to add is found in 1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Acts 11:27-30 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Its is authoritative to note that they willingly gave support for those brethren in need by sending to the Elders of that city whom they entrusted with dispersal of the funds to help the hungry brethren!
Romans 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
Notice that Paul urged them to give to the needy, and he said that he was not commanding them in their giving, and he gave them his advice concerning their giving, and so on. Nowhere are Christians ever commanded to tithe or to give a certain amount or to give a certain percentage or to use a certain percentage as a starting point for their giving! Instead, Christians are urged to excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7, above) by giving beyond what we think we can give, with an attitude of "eager willingness" and "overflowing joy." However, we're not meant to give foolishly to the point where it makes us "hard pressed" and unable to meet our needs (2 Corinthians 8:13, above). We're meant to give willingly, according to our means (2 Corinthians 8:11-12, above). For example, if you earn less money than another person does then you shouldn't feel bad about not giving as much as that other person because you don't have as much as that person. You should give willingly based on what you do have, not based on what you don't have (2 Corinthians 8:12, above).
The Servants Ministering to The Flock
1 Timothy 5:16-17 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
The first verse (16) indicates the care of the widow being compulsory to the saints (not called a tithe but nonetheless required) and then the second verse (17) says the elders, especially those working in the Word, are worthy of double that same honor. This shows care for the presbytery (elders) is also a worthy cause for Christian giving. This is summed up well in the next verse 918) which is a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4 -- magnified from letter of the law to the spirit of the law.
1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
This same principle is echoed in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 9:7-10 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
1 Corinthians 9:11-16 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
Compulsory And Voluntary Offerings: What about expenses of running a church today?
A Church Building (own or rent) Examples From Old Testament
The Tabernacle outfitting was funded by VOLUNTARY donations for the cause.
The First Temple was funded by VOLUNTARY donations for the cause.
One could certainly conclude, according to the word of God, that the church running costs should be met by the believers according to the decision of the elders, with everybody participating.
Should the church finances be separated into two funds: one for the support of those in the ministry and the help to the poor, and one for covering the running costs of the church? According to the Old Testament example given, yes. The tithes (poor, widow, Levites, Feast funds) were holy to the Lord and were not to be profaned in any way. When it comes to the New Testament it is not as clear, for there was no mention of the church running costs, but we certainly have a pattern in the Old to guide our way.
When you give what is your motivation? Is it of legalism, by law, or from the heart. It is to be the Lord Jesus reaching out and meeting the needs of others through us -- love is the principle that governs the Christians life, it is active not passive. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not (His) love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). Yes you can actually give it all away as required and still not do it as a response from your heart.Tithing is necessary to keep the Feasts and make full provision for the poor and it establishes a very clear pattern or principle of giving. Tithing was not the only giving the Israelites did. They also gave gifts, vows, commanded and voluntary offerings. Remember that tithing was designed to meet the needs of the people. Also consider that we are supposed to give to help each other. Therefore, if I do not save to help others; or create bills such as credit card bills and loan payments such that I have nothing left to give then I, too, have violated a Biblical principle. I am acting in selfishness and hoarding what God has given me. I used all that I have on myself instead of reserving something to give to help someone and honor God and now I have nothing left to sow. (We reap what we sow!)
Some see a technical 'loophole' allowing them to give less if they realize the 'tithe' is not for preachers and churches if we mince words. Now, if we look at this concept from the Biblical perspective, we will see that there is no loophole since the Bible teaches that true (Godly) giving is a spirit-led heart-motivated activity. An attempt to keep from giving reveals the true heart of a person. They don’t want to give. They want to have all for themselves. Therefore, they will come to poverty according to the teachings of Solomon (maybe or maybe not physical poverty in this life per se).
Many people tithe or give gifts because they love themselves, not God. They have been convinced that a curse will come on them if they don't tithe/give and that a blessing will come on them if they do. So they tithe/give faithfully, but God is not first in their life - their own needs are. True love gifts for service to the saints are an expression of the love of God in the giver's heart.
I know that you, as have I, have heard those numerous sermons on giving to God, and that you desire to do it. It is your motive that counts to God, and I am sure that you understand that your giving will not earn you a (better) place in the soon coming kingdom of heaven, neither can you bribe God. So if it is your genuine desire to give to God, I'll show you a couple of ways from which you may consider doing so.
Truth On The Web Ministries (aka Church of God at Woodstock, Illinois) does not solicit, but does accept, funds from brethren. We do provide a page on this site (http://truthontheweb.org/donate.htm) with instructions for those interested in helping our evangelistic outreaches, feeding the brethren, help with getting the poor to feasts, and assistance to the poor, widow, orphans. Many loving inquiries have been made as to how they could support this ministry. We commonly advise people to seek to help those needy individuals in their own congregation or community. This is how you can best serve the Lord with material things that He has given you to be steward over. Yet some have still inquired beyond that and this page has been set up to accept gifts and offerings for those who still would like to help in that regard. We know it brings joy to give cheerfully so we do not want to take that away from those who desire to promote the truth of the gospel through this humble ministry. All gifts are used to support the ministry (service) to the saints and never for personal use - even though the scriptures allow support of ministers as well - we rather believe that such gifts of love are better utilized for spreading the gospel and supporting and edifying the Body.
Romans 12:13: "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
We should not be supporting false teachers and those who abuse the money and the gospel for gain. We should be looking to support those who are sincere and are in need of help in doing the Lords work. Those who are involved in full-time ministry are to be supported by the people they serve (1 Cor 9:7-14, 1 Tim 5:17-18), and those who do ministry and mission work need to be supported by those who are home with the goods. A careful review of New Testament giving reveals to us that our contributions should not only be to support our local church and ministries, but also meet the basic needs of our fellow Christians (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:1-13; 1 Tim. 6:17-19). There was organized giving within local assemblies to care for believing widows and orphans who had no other family to rely on (Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:1-16).
We should all support those we can in ministry, we should support the churches work, we should also, and equally important look where God can use us to support those in need.
When Christ is preached, every doctrine must be in the light of its relationship to him. So should tithing and hospitable giving be looked at as well. A Christian does not obey God in order to merely please him. Instead a Christian obeys God because he has been saved, because his nature is changed, because he is studying to know God’s will, and because he is yielded to the Holy Spirit. Believers who are being transformed into Christ’s likeness by learning sound doctrine want to give as Christ gave Himself entirely.
Truth On The Web Homepage TOTW Library of Articles
by Kenneth Hoeck
1Thessalonians 2:- 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. 9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.