Growing up as a Christian, each sabbath I would hear the pastor up the front make the announcement, “It has come time to take up our tithes and offerings”. But does God really want us to tithe, and what is a tithe anyway?
Before I answer that, we need to look at an important concept. Does the money we have belong to us or does it belong to God? Well if we look at scripture we will find in Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and all who live in it.” So, the earth is God’s and everything in it including us who live in the earth, that would tell us God owns the money we have, not us right? Still not convinced God is owner of all, let’s look further into scripture.
“To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” Deuteronomy 10:14.
“The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” Leviticus 25:23
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom, you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-12
“Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Job 41:11
“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” Psalm 50:10-12
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8
Now it’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive declaration of absolute divine ownership then these past seven verses and you won’t find a single verse that suggests God has ever relinquished ownership to us. We don’t even own ourselves as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 God says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
God doesn’t just own the heavens and the earth, he owns us and everything we pretend to claim ownership too. That includes our income, our homes, our cars, everything. Now sometimes I hear people say, “well it’s because I worked hard, made sacrifices, saved and invested wisely that I have wealth, therefore it’s mine”. Well Deuteronomy 8:18 says “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Or 1 Samuel 2:7 “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.”
It is clear from scripture that God owns everything, including us and our ability to produce an income and wealth. He has never relinquished ownership to us, therefore we are his managers or stewards.
So back to the original question, do we need to tithe and what is a tithe? The Greek word for tithe is “apodekatoo” which simply means a tenth. So, a tithe is a tenth of your produce or earnings i.e. 10%. The bible calls it our first fruits or increase. The tithe belongs to God, we find in Leviticus 27:30 “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.” God clearly states the tithe is His and it is holy to Him.
Personally, I don’t use the word “give” when tithing. Instead I like to use the word “return”. Giving kind of implies it was mine to begin with. Think about it, when you give someone something, it feels like it belonged to you and then you gave it to the other person. If God owns the tithe, in fact owns all the money and wealth we have, then “returning” the tithe implies it was God’s to begin with and I am simply returning what is His. In Malachi 3:7 He says “Return to me…”. So instead of giving Him 10% of our increase, we are returning 10% of what He has given us.
Now we know what a tithe is, does God want or need us to tithe?
The first reference to tithing is found in Genesis 14, where Abraham tithes to Melchizedek. Then in Genesis 28 Jacob promises to give God “a full tenth”. It’s clear from Genesis 4 that the first people on earth knew they had a responsibility to return to God a portion of what God had given them. They were even held responsible for the kind of offering they gave, remember God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.
Nehemiah 10:37-39 and in chapter 18 from the book of Numbers we see the role of tithing in relation to Levites (priests). The Levites were not given allotment (land) as the rest of the tribes of Israel, by God’s direct directive (they neither had land nor herds as their possession) Also, they were dispersed among the tribes of Israel like no other tribe. Why? They were to be a glue which brought people together into the worship of Yahweh and brought about the unity of worship and purpose. They were the servants of God in the temple. On the other hand, as people returned their tithes, these tithes were given to the Levites.
In Malachi 3:6-12 God rebukes his people and gives the clearest guidance in scripture regarding his command to tithe. When you read it notice a few points;
1. “For I the Lord do not change;…” this implies that tithing has always been part of God’s plan for mankind from the beginning until the end. This is not a form of legalism but a command from God and if we love God, don’t we want to follow His commands?
2. “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Here God is challenging us to return His tithe to him, but He also promises us that He will return to us. However, that should not be our reason for tithing. God is not a genie in a bottle that we simply give him something because we hope to receive something in return.
3. “Will man rob God?” God clearly states that when we refuse to return our tithes and give of our offerings we are robbing or stealing from Him. In fact God says “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me;…”
4. “Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts.” This is the only time in the bible I have found where God says to test him. God wants us to test him, He wants us to bring the full tithes into the storehouse and He follows with “If I will not open the window of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
God knows what’s best for us and He knows that returning the tithe is so essential to our wellbeing. When we return our tithes, and give of our offerings, we are to do it with an open hand, not a closed fist. By returning our tithes, it begins a change in our hearts towards giving. We start to give with an open hand and that change in our hearts will become a greater blessing to us then any increase money or possessions could ever give.
In Romans 12:3-8 we are told about the gifts we have been given from God. Though we are many, we form one body in Christ and one of those gifts in verse 8 is giving. “If it is giving, then give generously.” Do you have the gift of giving? Do you even know if you have the gift of giving? most people don’t. I would encourage you to do the very thing God mentioned in Malachi, test Him. If you haven’t given before, why not try it, rest assured it is one of the best gifts you can experience.
I want to encourage you to pray. Pray that God will give you wisdom, knowledge and understanding. That you will experience the wonderful joy of giving and that starts with returning what God has commanded us to do which is returning His tithe.