The Art of Giving

Introduction

The Christian’s life is governed, or should be, by the principles in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God represents the system of operation within the realm of God. Therefore, we strive to live according to that system, namely God’s Way. A very important part of God’s system is our love for each other and this love is sometimes or many times expressed by the act of giving. We give of our time, money, resources, and sometimes our lives to benefit someone else. However, there are many teachings about this sacred activity. There are various teachings involving tithing, systems of giving, and ways or methods of giving. Which one should we follow and how should we govern our own acts of giving.

For example, we are told that we have to tithe to our local church in order to be blessed by God. We are told to sow seeds (money) into our local church in order to obtain provisions from God. We are told to give for the building fund, and other expenses of the church organization. However, we are not told about giving to each other to meet needs. Christians have been giving their money to ministers and pastors with the belief that God will bless them for doing so. People suffer and go without because they believe that if they give their money to the local church that God will bless them for it. Christians suffer in their giving and the ministers who receive continue to build their kingdoms, drive in their luxurious cars, and live in extravagant homes. Now there is nothing wrong with a minister having these things but not at the expense of others.

I began to notice that people were experiencing hardships and lack instead of the blessings they were promised. Did God go back on his word? Did God really command us to tithe in order to be blessed? Was the promise really from God? I, along with other Christians, began to see that something was wrong. Would a just God cause pastors, ministers and the like to live in luxury at the expense of the people in their respective congregations? Would God tell us to pledge allegiance to an organization at the expense of the individual? Is God more concerned about buildings then he is of me?

This series of lessons is designed to help you to understand the concept of giving within the bounds of the Kingdom of God that is presented to us in the Bible. This study guide will present the facts of scripture and the general message of those scriptures regarding the tithe, our giving, sowing and reaping. We will cover those three topics in that order, namely tithing, giving, sowing and reaping. Foremost, I hope to reveal the truth about tithing so that you can be liberated from your religious bonds if indeed you are oppressed. I also hope to liberate you to freely express you love for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that your resources are available to them for their well being—in the name of Jesus Christ. I also hope to establish the truth about the concept of sowing and reaping that is taught in so many religious organizations and Christian "pep rallies." Please see my study titled "Tithing, Giving, Sowing and Reaping," from which this series is derived.

 

Tithing Overview

I have found that one of the most prominent elements that is discussed, taught, debated, and disputed within the church organization is the law of the tithe. Some believe that Christians are commanded to tithe while others believe they are not. The Old Testament scripture in Malachi 3:10 is usually quoted to bind people to the law of the tithe. There are also disputes as to whether the tithe is 10% of the gross or net income. In general, many Christians are taught that they are supposed to tithe to their local church, which is according to God’s commandment.

Let’s first look at the law of the tithe from the biblical perspective to see if this common religious teaching is indeed genuine or if it is simply a way for people to extort money from Christians or an act of ignorance perpetuated to the more ignorant.

Law

I think it is important to discuss the LAW since the teaching of tithing centers around the Old Testament law. The following is an excerpt from the Holman Bible Dictionary.

LAW, TEN COMMANDMENTS Law refers both to the revelation of the will of God in the Old Testament and to the later elaboration on the law referred to as the "traditions of the elders" in the New Testament (for example, Mark 7:5). The term law may be used for a commandment, a word, a decree, a judgment, a custom, or a prohibition. The Hebrew term most frequently translated "law" in the Old Testament is torah, used more than 200 times. The central idea of torah is that of instruction received from a superior authority on how to live. Torah in the Old Testament came to mean the way of life for faithful Israelites. The Torah is more than just "laws"; it includes the story of God's dealing with humankind and with Israel.

Jesus inaugurated a new era in which the Law as understood by the Jews of His day would no longer be the guiding principle for the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:16). Nevertheless, Jesus claimed not to have come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-20). That is, Jesus moved the understanding of the Law from its external, legalistic meaning to its spiritual one. Moving from outward observance to inward motivation and intention is Jesus' concern (Matt. 5:21,22,27,28). He pushes the Law out to its ultimate meaning (thus filling it full). In this sense Jesus affirmed the heart and the spirit of the Law. He moved to a deeper level of meaning, to the spirit behind the Law, which God had intended from the beginning.

Paul gives us the purpose of the Old Testament laws,

(Galatians 3:24-25 NIV) "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. {25} Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

The law had a definite purpose and Christ has fulfilled that purpose. Jesus said,

(Matthew 5:17 NIV) ""Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

 

Keeping the Whole Law

I must point out a very important fact before I get into the discussion of tithing. The Bible says,

(James 2:10-11 KJV) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. {11} For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

The law revealed the will of God as we said earlier. So if we being law keepers break one law then we have gone against the will of God and therefore guilty—period. If we are to keep the law of tithing then we must keep the whole law of tithing. Let me define the tithing law.

 

The Tithing Law

God, according to Malachi 3:8-10, commands Christians to pay 10% of their gross income to their local church. Christians must pay this 10% before any other financial obligations are met. God cannot bless Christians unless this tithe has been paid.

I should point out that this tithing law as written comes from man not God. Note that this tithing law is not consistent with the tithing law of the Old Testament since more was involved with tithing at that time. There is also the matter of what was tithed and how. Right from the start we see a discrepancy between the Bible’s teaching and the teaching of the church.

 

Tithe Defined

Let’s define the word tithe from the Bible. There are five words in the Bible that were translated into the word tithe or tithes.

  1. Hebrew ma'aser or ma'asar (plural form ma'asrah) means a tenth.
  2. Hebrew 'asar means to accumulate; to tithe, i.e. take or give a tenth. Used only in Deuteronomy 14:22 and Nehemiah 10:38.
  3. Greek ap-od-ek-at-o'-o means to tithe (as debtor or creditor).
  4. Greek dekatoo means to tithe, i.e. to give or take a tenth. Used only in Hebrews 7:5,9
  5. Greek dekate means a tenth, i.e. as a percentage. Used only in Hebrews 7:8

I will use the definition of tenth for the word tithe. Therefore, a tithe means one tenth of something.

 

Scripture Examinations

Let’s first review the scriptures in the Bible that deal with tithing. The scriptures below were found by looking up the words ‘tithe’, ‘tithes’, and ‘tenth’ using the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Our first endeavor is to gather information regarding tithing from the Bible. We will then analyze what we find to draw a reasonable conclusion about the Bible’s teaching on the tithe.

Genesis 14:20 (NKJV) 20And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

This scripture indicates that tithing may have been a common or at least familiar practice well before the Law was given to Moses. We also note that Abraham tithed from the spoils of war and not from his personal belongings. This very act by Abraham implies the expressive nature of the tithe. We have to ask ourselves why Abraham tithed to Melchizedek in the first place since there was no law to do so.

Genesis 28:22 (NKJV) And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and if all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

Jacob was filled with awe and reverence for God whom he believed was present in the place where he slept (Bethel, formerly Luz). Filled with awe and reverence, he made a vow to God. Because of the way Jacob made the vow, it does not appear that he was trying to bargain with God. The "if" should be understood to mean that what God said was future and Jacob was simply accommodating that fact in his speech. Therefore, Jacob vowed that God would be his God and that he would give a tenth of everything he gains. Jacob in a sense promised to honor God with his increase. We can also assume that Jacob’s heart was in the right place because of God’s response in Numbers 31:13.

An awe and reverence of God motivated Jacob’s vow to Him, which included a tithe of all his increase. Tithing can be used to honor and/or revere God. Notice that Jacob initiated this action not God.

Leviticus 27:30 through Leviticus 27:33 (NKJV) 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. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’"

In these scriptures God establishes that the tithe was holy (sacred, set apart) to Him. God further establishes that the tithe of the land is holy. We also see in this scripture that there was not a one-to-one relation between the tithe and its value. If a person redeemed their tithe then they had to add 20% (a fifth) to it. This seems to indicate that God made provisions for someone to buy the tithe back for himself.

In addition to this we see that there was to be no distinguishing a good or bad animal. Every tenth animal that passed under the rod belonged to God. The sheep or calves where shut in one fold, in which was a narrow door, to let them out one at a time. A person stood by the door, with a rod dipped in vermilion in his hand, and counted the animals as they passed touching every tenth animal with the rod thus marking the tithe.

This scripture establishes that the tithe of the land and the herd was holy to God. It also seems to indicate that the tithe could be redeemed. There was to be no distinction of good or bad tithes.

Numbers 18:21 (NKJV) "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. All of the tithes were for the children of Levi for an inheritance, for the service they rendered in the tent of meeting (tabernacle).

Numbers 18:24 (NKJV) For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’"

Here God made sure that His workers were compensated for their services.

Numbers 18:26-32 (NKJV) "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the LORD’S heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’"

These scriptures establish that the Levites were to present to the priests a tenth of the tithes they received from the people. The tithes that they presented to the priests would be reckoned to them as produce from the threshing floor and winepress. We also see that they were to present to the priests the best and holiest parts. The amount that they kept could be eaten anywhere because it was their wages for the work they did in the tent of meeting.

Even the workers (ministers) of God were required to give to meet needs.

Deuteronomy 6:6 through Deuteronomy 6:11 (NKJV) "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. "So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—

Here God is giving the Hebrew people instructions for living in the land that He has given them. One of the things that he told them to do was to bring their tithe, as well as other offerings, to the place that He decides to place his name. They were not to do whatever they wanted.

There was a specific place that the people had to bring their tithes.

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (NKJV) "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

God instructs the people to set aside a tenth of all that the land produces each year. They were to eat the tithe of the grain, new wine and oil and the firstborn of their herds and flocks. As in Deuteronomy 12:17, they were to eat it in the presence of the Lord (where he chose). The purpose of this tithe and for eating it in God’s presence was so they would learn to revere Him. Also, if the place that God chose was too far for them to travel with their tithe, then they were supposed to exchange it for silver, go to the place determined by God, exchange the silver for whatever they wanted and eat it in the presence of God.

At the end of every three years, they were instructed to keep the tithe in their towns so that the Levites, foreigners, fatherless, and widows who lived in the town would eat and be satisfied. Also, by doing this (meeting the needs of the people and obeying God) they would be blessed by God.

 


The Art of Giving  Part 1
© 2000 William R. Cunningham
November 19, 2000