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          The concept of tithing in the church today is greatly distorted from the biblical model.  The New Testament does not directly endorse tithing, yet this law (in a simplified adapted form) is apparently still a part of the church today.  Today, most people fully reject laws such as the Sabbath (Matt. 12:11-12, Luke 6:5), Holydays (Luke 2:41-42, Acts 18:21), and the sacrificial system (Acts 21:26, Acts 24:17), yet these laws are directly cited in the New Testament.  It appears that the church today is accepting the word of God as it pleases.  If we like a certain law we will find a way to make it still valid, but if we do not, then we claim that it has been nailed to the cross with Jesus.

          The truth is, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).  Every commandment, statute, and judgment of God is relevant to the church today and should be practiced, including tithing.  The problem is that we have lost the true meaning of these concepts and have, "forgotten the law of thy God" (Hos. 4:6).  Tithing is a practice that is beneficial to man.  After all, God promises a blessing to those that give of His tithes (Mal 3:10).


What is a Tithe?


          This is a simple question.  To answer this question we simply need to look up the Hebrew word.  The word for tithe is, ma‛ăśêr ma‛ăśar ma‛aśrâh, which means, "a tenth" (Strong's Dictionary - H4643).  This word is first used in reference to Abram tithing with Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20).  It is confirmed in the Law of God in the book of Leviticus (Lev. 27:30).  A tithe is simply giving a tenth of your increase (what you might call income today) to God.  This was always given to a man who represented God (a priest).  This priest was one who accomplished the work of God on earth.

          The principle of tithing is a concept found early in scripture, yet, hundreds of years later God further clarified this concept in the Mosaic Law.  When God gave the law to Moses He gave several statutes regarding tithing.  These statutes help clarify what God intended by the tithe.  In fact, within the Mosaic Law, you can see that there are three tithes commanded for us to give.  Although the scripture does not call them first, second, and third tithe, I will do so in this article so as to provide a clear distinction between them.


The First Tithe:


          The first tithe is the original tithe that Abram gave to Melchizedek.  To give you some background, Melchizedek was a priest of God.  This High Priest received a tenth of Abrams increase because He was accomplishing the work of God on earth.  To better understand this we need to understand what the world was like during the times of Abram/Abraham.  Keep in mind, Abraham was born around 1,948 years after creation.  The flood of Noah was around 1,656 years after creation.  Abraham lived approximately 300 years after the flood and Noah was still alive.  Here is a chart to help better understand this timeline.  300 years of population is not much.  The population of the world was probably only measured by the thousands.  At this time, Melchizedek walked the earth and represented God to man.  He was a priest, which made Him a judge.  He most likely judged matters amongst men, which is why He received the tithe.  Hundreds of years later, as the population of the earth grew, men began to forsake the law of God.  Civilizations, such as Egypt, began practicing a law that was no longer of God.  God's way of dealing with this was to separate a population of people and give them His law to practice (Ex. 15:13, Lev. 20:26).

          When God gave His law to Moses, instead of one priest He created a priesthood.  This priesthood was designed to deal with matters among a nation following God's law.  However, this priesthood also had a High Priest, which represented Melchizedek, who was a foreshadow of the Messiah (Heb. 4:14, Heb. 6:20).  The Levitical Priesthood was a priesthood for matters of the flesh (Heb. 7:16).  It dealt with matters pertaining to life here on earth.  The High Priesthood dealt with matters pertaining to the Spirit, or "endless life" (Heb. 7:16).  This is why the Levitical Priesthood dealt with our sins against each other in the Holy Place and the High Priest dealt with our sins against God in the Holy of Holies (Heb. 9:7-8).  To judge sins against each other was the job of the Levitical Priesthood and the Holy Place, but to judge sins against God was the job of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.  We now have a permanent High Priest at the right hand of God where we can "come boldly unto the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16).

          The first tithe is given to the Levites.  Ten percent of all increase was to be given to the Levitical Priesthood for their work in the Tabernacle (Num. 18:20-21).  The Levites worked in the Tabernacle to deal with the sins/crimes of all the people.  If someone had a dispute against their brethren they would bring the matter before the judge/priest in the Holy Place.  A judgment would be given and a fine/sacrifice might be sentenced.  For this service every Israelite was to give ten percent of all their increase to the Levites.  The Levites are in turn to give ten percent of their tithes to the Aaronic Priesthood (Num. 18:26-28).  In fact, we still do this today, our state judicial system still gives ten percent to our federal system.  This first tithe is always for the civil service of a nation.  We practice this tithe in the form of the income tax today, although, we do not practice it correctly.  We should have a flat tax of ten percent instead of the heavy progressive income tax we have.


The Second Tithe:


          The second tithe is found in the laws regarding the holydays.  We know these refer to a different tithe because they are designed for the individual to partake of (Deut. 14:26).  The first tithe was only for the Levites while the second tithe was specifically for the individual offerer.  The second tithe is designed to be offered only at the place where "LORD your God shall choose" (Deut. 12:5, Deut. 14:22-24).  Though it was not known at the time of Moses, we now know that the place where God chose is Jerusalem.  All Israelites were to appear before the LORD three times in a year for each feast (Ex. 23:17, Deut. 16:16).  At these feasts each Israelite was to bring their tithes to participate in the feast.  If you had crops you were to bring of your crops, if you had animals you were to bring of your animals, if you worked a trade you could exchange for money and purchase something to offer.

          This second tithe is for, "whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" (Deut. 14:26).  It was a way of making sure each Israelite could afford to feast before the LORD.  This tithe is what we might call a savings account today.  We are to put ten percent of our increase/income aside and this money will become available for us to spend on whatever we like at the time of each feast.  It is first to pay for the necessary arrangements for the feast and then to purchase whatever you like.  If one chooses, they can simply continue to use those funds as a savings.  The option to borrow from this savings account/second tithe is available, but a penalty of twenty percent is to be levied (Lev. 27:31).  Practicing this second tithe is a way where the believer can pay for vacation time (feasts) and build a savings account.  It is good financial planning.

          Though this was to be given at the place where the, "LORD your God shall choose", an exception is given when Israel grows.  God has planned for Israel to grow beyond its borders of Jerusalem.  "When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.  If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" (Deut. 12:20-21).  God has allowed us to participate in this program even when Jerusalem is too far.  In fact, this is a principle of God's Law that allows us to participate even here in America.  The United States is an Israelite nation for our Constitution upholds the Law of God, what we call the Common Law today.  Though Jerusalem is too far to travel to for the feasts, we can celebrate them here in America without a Tabernacle/Temple.  We can do so in our own homes.


The Third Tithe:


          The third tithe is different than the first two.  It was to be given on the third and sixth year of the seven year cycle (Deut. 14:28, 26:12).  We know this tithe is different because it was not given to the Levites only or for the individual offerer.  This tithe was given to the, "the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow" (Deut. 14:28-29, 26:12).  On the third and the sixth year all Israelites were to give another ten percent of their increase/income over to the Levites, the poor, the orphans, and the strangers in need.  The third tithe is God's welfare program.  It is designed to help people in need.  We do this in America with our welfare program.  However, we do not do it correctly.  We should give to the poor from our tithes only on the third and sixth year and it should be taxed only ten percent during these years.  This is designed to keep people from taking advantage of government aid and trying to live off of the system.  For it is only available during these years.  The third tithe could fulfill a large need to give someone the support they need to get back on their feet.   The remaining years the statutes allowing the poor to glean from your fields (Lev. 19:9-10) will be able to sustain them. 


The Church Today:


          It is unfortunate today that the church has hijacked God's tithing program.  The scripture no where endorses giving your tithes to the church.  This does not mean we should not give to a church, especially if we receive teaching and instruction from it.  The tithe however is to be given for the Levites (government), for the feasts (a savings account), and for the poor and needy.  Churches today seem to believe that they are acting in the role of the Levites which is why they are entitled to that ten percent tithe.  However, churches today do not sit in judgement on judicial cases, enforce laws, keep peace, etc. which the Levites did.  In fact,  in Micah 3:11 it speaks negatively of the time when the Levites were teaching for hire.  

           If one wants to give to the church it should be in the form of a freewill offering (2 Cor. 9:7, Ex. 35:29, Ezra 3:5).  We are to give as we purpose in our own hearts.  There is not a set standard to give, but a voluntary offering we give as we feel it is necessary.  Churches that push tithing on their members are treading in dangerous waters.  It is true that we should give to the work of the church, but this is according to how each member has prospered and is to be purposed in their own hearts, not a set amount (1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 9:7).




          Tithing is a commandment of the LORD.  We should practice this system today in the countries we live in.  We should have a flat tax of ten percent that pays for the civil service.  We should each individually save ten percent of our increase/income for participation in the feasts, like a vacation pay.  This should first be used for the feasts of the LORD and second for our own pleasure.  Finally we should put ten percent aside every third and sixth year as a welfare program.  This is to be given out by each individual to an individual(s).  This is the tithing program God commanded and we would be better off if we did so.


By Steve Siefken

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV