Tithe Confusion Part 3

In this study, we continue looking for answers to the confusion we see in today’s teachings of the “tithe”. I want to look at two characters from the Old Testament, Abram (Abraham) and Jacob. Since they lived at a time before the Law of Moses and are identified as people who tithed; I think they warrant at least a surface examination. They offer us some very interesting motives and insights that help us understand what the tithe meant in their day, as compared to how it is taught in our congregational settings.

Abram’s Tithe: (Gen. 14:14-24)

“Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ — except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

4 Serious Differences from Tithe Teachings:

  • Abram tithed only the spoils of war. This leads us to believe his gift was more of a free-will offering to honor Melchizedek and keep the king of Sodom from misunderstanding Abram’s wealth.
  • Abram gave it all; 10% to Melchizedek and the rest it would seem to the king of Sodom. So Abram’s example would mean we are not to keep anything. It would also seem that less was given to the spiritual leader than the ungodly leader in this case.
  • Abram’s tithe was a onetime event. We see no evidence of a pattern of this type of stewardship.
  • Abram didn’t tithe of his personal possessions. This gift was the spoils of war and not his occupational income.

Jacob’s Tithe: (Gen. 28:20-22)

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

2 Serious Differences from Tithe Teaching:

  • Jacob’s vow was to tithe on everything that God would give him.  If he waited to receive, as it says, then why are Christians taught that they should tithe before God can provide increase? Doesn’t it seem like we have it the wrong way around? Jacob used tithing to say thanks. The modern church uses it to buy blessings.
  • Jacob’s vow was to give the tithe to God directly. Since there was at this point no temple or no priests, how did Jacob tithe? Where did he take it and who received the tithe on behalf of God? How did God intend the tithe to be received?

From these two Biblical examples we see something other than the principles of tithing we are often taught. We see the heart of giving and the ministry of relational stewardship. Abram didn’t tithe of his own possessions and there is only this one experience… he also gave 100% away. Jacob refused to tithe unless God first provided for his needs. He also didn’t have Melchizedek or any other priest to receive his tithe. If I had to guess as to how he gave the tithe, I would say he either burned it as a burnt offering or held some feast in honor of God with those who were in his family. Remember the tithe was never understood to be money, but increase in their blessed position with God. Their motive was a stewardship of thanksgiving. 

Motives of the Heart:

I really love the heart of Abram and Jacob, because it the spontaneous flow of spiritual stewardship expressed in their wisdom, generosity and thankful giving. They were offering a sacrifice. Offering a sacrifice is a Kingdom expression and part of a New Covenant priority we see in the Early Church (Acts 4:32)(Rom. 12:1-2)(Heb. 13:15). With our sacrifice, we are giving something up that we do not expect to get back. If you are expecting to receive something back, you didn’t make a sacrifice, you made an investment. That’s a big difference! The one is an act of worship; the other is a means to an end.

So no matter how we give, it begins with our heart’s motivation. Do you do it in order to get something back or are you merely giving thanks? If we are giving in order to be more blessed, our gift is not a sacrifice, but the spiritual practice of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7). This is a good principle, but not what we see from Abram and Jacob.

Favor & Blessing:

What these two Biblical characters show us more than anything, is that God’s favor and blessing cannot be bought. The blessing of God is designed to become the most comfortable environment of the life of faith. It is given freely, because of inheritance… because its the “family environment”. We are the Children of God, accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6) and living out of an overflow of grace. We are blessed! And because we are blessed… we are a blessing everywhere we go. The relationship we have with our Heavenly Father creates the platform for our stewardship and our motivation for giving.

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