Throughout the Word of God are many references to children of God paying tithes and giving offerings unto the Lord. The New Testament reference to tithing is traced back to Abraham. The writer of Hebrews refers to Abraham giving “a tenth part of all;…” (Hebrews 7:2) to Melchizedek. Genesis 14:18-20 gives the actual account and states, “…And he gave him tithes of all.” Abraham lived and paid tithes at least four hundred years before the law was instituted.
When Jacob experienced the vision of the ladder, he made a vow to God. It was a vow that stated, “…and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Genesis 28:22). Jacob paid tithes of all that was given to him from God.
Throughout the entire dispensation of the Law from Mount Sinai to the fulfilling of the law in Jesus, tithe paying was a part of the legalistic code. Tithing and giving was a vital part of the law in Israel, and this is recorded in Leviticus 27:30-34, Numbers 18:10-32, and Deuteronomy 14:22-29. Tithing was God’s plan to aid in financing the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. The children of Israel were tithe-payers.
A tithe was, of course, a tenth. Offerings were above and beyond the tithe. God’s relationship with Israel was based on a covenant principle. As such, there were two sides to the agreement – two mutual obligations. If Israel kept her end of the agreement and observed the law, God would bless her and fulfill His promises. If Israel disobeyed the law, the covenant was broken and God was not under obligation to fulfill His part of the blessing agreement.
“Will a man rob God? Ye ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). In this passage, God’s complaint is against His people because they have robbed Him and not paid tithes and offerings. For that reason they suffered loss and yet wondered why they could not prosper.
When Christ came fulfilling the law, He sanctioned the paying of tithes – “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” (Matthew 23:23). The laws of God written on the hearts of men by Christ would compel them to be faithful to God’s financial plan. The paying of one-tenth of the individual’s increase into the Church treasury has become the established practice in the Word of God.
Obedience to God is the focal point. Tithing and giving becomes a secondary matter with obedience becoming the point of primary importance. Outward acts, such as paying tithes, is easily seen by people; however, a person may be obedient in outward conduct and fail in inward obedience. The attitude or motivation for doing something can become an issue with God. We may pay tithes or give offerings outwardly and inwardly resent and covet every cent paid. Our spiritual blessings come because of our inward obedience in pleasing God.
What is the purpose of tithing and giving? Why does God place so much emphasis on it? Is it because He wants a tenth of everything simply to possess it for Himself? Surely not because the entire world is already His. He wants the tithe as evidence that His people recognize His love toward them. The book of Malachi opens with God’s assurance, “I have loved you, saith the LORD…” (Malachi 1:2). He wants His people to recognize that great truth and to respond to it by tithing and giving, the value of which lies in being an expression of our love in recognition of His love. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse…” (Malachi 3:10) means the whole tithe. It is possible to pay a full ten percent, and yet not tithe the whole tithe, if tithes are paid as an obligation and not as an expression of our love and gratitude.
The New Testament does not approach tithing and giving as the law to be obeyed, but it is an expression of a loving response to God’s love.
If we were under the law, we would be forced to pay tithes and offerings. Surely, being under grace, we will not allow those under the law to outdo us in expressing profound gratitude for the riches of God’s grace and mercy.
Who should tithe and give? “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” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Every student of the Scriptures knows that the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is the greatest chapter in the Bible dealing with the resurrection. It is with surprise that the apostle Paul moves directly from that great theme to the next. It is as if he paused for a moment after he had finished with the great resurrection theme and then wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” (1 Corinthians 16:1). The position of these two themes should reveal something about the ministry of tithing and giving. It is not merely a matter of everybody chipping in to help defray the expenses of the work; rather, it is elevated to the level of worshiper as we participate with God in the stewardship which is committed to us to carry on His work of communicating the Gospel of the resurrected Christ to the world.
It is significant that verse two of this chapter literally means “putting into the treasury” or “hoarding up,” and this is entirely consistent with the Church’s provision of a common treasury for the collection of tithes and offerings out of which the work of the Lord is financed.
Giving offerings is separate and apart from paying tithes. Our offerings are to be given in addition to the tithes we pay. We are under obligation to give offerings just the same as we are to pay tithes. We cannot fulfill our obligation for paying tithes by giving; neither can we fulfill our obligation for giving by paying tithes.
The tithe is a specific amount, one-tenth of our increase, but we are free to give an offering of any amount. The tithe is to be placed in the storehouse to be disbursed by those in charge of the storehouse. An offering may be given to help the poor and needy, to construct church buildings, to finance the mission work, to publish the Gospel through print or digital means, and many other activities which promote the work of the Church. Our obligation to support these activities by our offerings is just as great as it is to support the ministry with our tithes.
The Church of God teaches that its members should pay tithes and give offerings, and the reason for this instruction is because it is taught in the Bible. The seriousness of failing to pay tithes or give offerings is shown in the prophet’s question under the inspiration of God: “Will a man rob God?…” (Malachi 3:8). This chapter goes on to show that a sin was committed by withholding tithes and offerings. The prophet continued with the admonition that such will be cursed with a curse (Malachi 3:9). Any individual who may have been guilty of robbing God in tithes and offerings will surely want to stop and to begin paying tithes and giving offerings. For such who obey is the promise of greater material and spiritual blessings of the Lord.
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