By Harry L. Herman
God has from the beginning provided a means of financing his program through voluntary giving (offerings) and assessments called “Tithes”. Contrary to the opinion of many, Tithes did not begin with the “Law”, but was practiced by Abraham 430 years before the law (Gen.14:18-20) and continued on through Jacob (Gen.28:20-22) and finally though Levi (law) and the Levitical Priesthood. God employs the principle of “Offerings” when instructing Moses how to get the materials to build the tabernacle (Exod. 25:1-8) and later Solomon’s Temple. The subject of “Tithes & Offerings” is widely practiced but often misunderstood as to its purpose and applications according to the scriptures. This portion of our Study Guide divides the subject matter of Tithes & Offerings into two distinct sections. The first section will deal with “TIMES” covering the definition and purpose according to the scriptures. The second section will cover “OFFERINGS” and how they are used.
It is obvious that one can not pay tithes or give offerings unless there is some manner of “INCOME” provided for the individual. This income may be money or wages, interest from investments, Social Security and welfare checks, bonuses, produce from the fields (farming), live stock (cattle , sheep etc.) or anything that represents an increase to the individual. In biblical times tithes consisted of things harvested, increases in the flocks and herds and money from the sale of their produce as well as wages. Today, tithes and offerings are almost always paid in the currency of the time and it is the exception to the rule to use commodities as the medium of exchange. As we begin the first thing that must be established is, it is God who makes it possible for us to get wealth and is responsible for any increase one may enjoy. All that we possess in reality belongs to God and He expects us to be faithful stewards over His things. “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shaft remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Deut. 8:17-18 Because of Him one has the strength, health and opportunity to get and hold a job. It is because of Him the fields and trees provide a harvest and live stock reproduces to provide for us our needs.
In the final analysis, God owns everything and all we are able to enjoy is on “loan from Him” who provides for our daily needs. “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psa. 24:1 “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof ” Psa. 50:10-12 And finally, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. ” 1 Tim.6:17-19 As these scriptures teach us, God is the owner, controller and generator of all that exists. These things are given to man for him to enjoy, but at the same time man has the obligation and responsibility to act as a good steward over God’s abundant blessings. We are admonished not to put our trust in corruptible material things, for God can reclaim them as easy as He can provide them. He expects us to honor and give Him glory for the blessings we receive and one way to do this is to honor Him with our tithes and offerings.
“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal. 3:711
Perhaps the most familiar scripture on the subject of Tithes is, Mal 3:7-11. Unfortunately for some, this is the only scripture they know, but the purpose and procedure of dealing with tithes and offerings is unknown to them.
First to be noticed is vs 7: God’s indictment is “you have gone away from mine ordinances and not kept them. Will a man rob God? How? In tithes AND offerings.” (Note the distinction between tithes AND offerings. The robbery involved both). They once did tithe, but now they have slacked off and are no longer fulfilling their obligation to God. He calls them “robbers”. Does one dare Rob God? What is the nature of this robbery? They did not pay their tenth or give offerings and as a result, the House of God went lacking and the priests were forced into the fields to work.
The results, “you are cursed with a curse. (Vs 10), bring ALL the tithes into the STOREHOUSE (church) that there may be meat in my house — if you will, I will pour out a blessing more than you can contain”. Paying tithes and giving offerings brings a blessing, a blessing of the magnitude that there is not enough room to receive it, on the other hand, failing to pay tithes bring on the individual a “curse”, God’s disfavor in all their activities.
Please note that Tithes are a DEBT one OWES to God. It is a fixed percentage of one’s total increase. On the other hand, an Offering is the amount the individual chooses to give as a voluntary gift. One does not GIVE their tithes. Do you “give” the bank your mortgage loan payment or do you PAY your loan to the bank. This mortgage money does not belong to the individual borrower, it is a loan and a debt. The mortgagee is expected to return that money with interest by PAYING on their debt at an agreed upon rate. SINCE
TITHES ARE A DEBT, WE PAY TITHES, BUT WE GIVE OFFERINGS. When one fails to pay tithes they are stealing, stealing from God. The nine tenths God allows us to keep coupled with his blessings is far better that keeping it all for yourself.
The eighth commandment reads, “Thou shalt not steal”. Since the tithe belongs to God, doesn’t this commandment also apply to the things belonging to Him? Is robbing God any less a sin because it is God’s stuff? NO! It is a dangerous thing to rob God.
The first fruits belong to God and when we receive our increase, our obligation is to give God that which belongs to Him FIRST. First fruits is the gross amount of the paycheck, it is the first thing paid from the paycheck before the house note, car payment, grocery bill and credit card etc. The IRS does not trust us to pay our taxes so they take their portion first to make sure they get it. Most never see the amount of deduction taken from their check. It is just a number. However, God is entitled to the first payment before anything else is paid and trusts the individual to pay on time. “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Prov. 3:9-10
It takes faith to give God the “tenth” with a willing heart.
God set the principle of tithes in the garden when He reserved a portion for Himself and not for Adam or Eve; the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil”. They were not to eat of this tree on penalty of death. It was reserved for God and God alone. As a result of partaking of this tree man received a death sentence and a curse was placed on the earth. Compare this principle with Mal. 3:9 where a curse is pronounced for robbing God of the tithes. (Refer to the booklet “Christian Stewardship” by Bishop G.T. Haywood, pages 6 & 7).
The purpose of tithes was to insure “Meat in mine house” (Ma13:10). This is in reference to the Word & Truth dispensed by the ministry. This was God’s financial way of compensating the Levitical Priests and the ministry of today for their services for Him. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord bath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” Matt.24:45 The reference here is the responsibility of the ministry to feed the flock of God with the Word.
While details of tithing are outlined in the Old Testament, not too much is stated in the New Testament. However, there are enough obvious references made in the New Testament to give authority for the ministry to collect the tithe from the children of God. Consider too the Apostles, who were Jews, and well acquainted with the Old Testament system of tithing. They saw no problem in applying the same system in the church.
Matt.23:23 Jesus justifies paying tithes, accusing the Pharisees and hypocrites, who paid tithes of aromatic spices and herbs, of having left off the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith. These (Tithing) they were to do AND NOT LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE.
Note the following scriptures also:
Gal. 3:29 “If ye be Christ’s, then ye are Abraham’s seed”.
John 8:39 If we are Abraham’s children (seed) then we are to do the works of Abraham, that is, pay tithes as Abraham did.
Gen. 14:18-20 Abraham gave tithes of ALL to Melchizedek. (God Himself)
Gen. 28:20-22 Jacob vowed a vow which included giving a “tenth” unto God.
The definition of tithes is the “tenth” or one tenth of ones total increase. Increase is defined as “the gross amount that is added to one’s possessions”. This is not limited to just gross wages, but any other increase that is added to your total resources, taxable or not.
“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 unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.” Lev. 27:30-32 Since the “tenth” belongs to God, He can dispose of it as He wishes. The “tenth” was given to the children of Levi for their service of the tabernacle. When one pays their tithes the money is no longer theirs and they have no say so as to how it is to be used. It now belongs to God for Him to use and disburse.
“And the LORD spoke unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” Num. 18:20-21 (Note: if something is mine, then I have the right to dispose of it as I see fit. Since the tenth or tithes belong to God, He has the right to dispose of it as He see fit so He in turn gives it to the ministry as their pay for service.)
Ezek. 18:25 “—Is not my way equal? Are not your ways unequal?” God’s system of tithing is equally applied to the rich and poor alike. It is equal sacrifice.
The “Law” provided a “System” for paying tithes and not the authority for them.
John 7:22 “Moses gave you circumcision; (not because it was of Moses, but of the fathers). Both circumcision AND tithing came from Abraham. Rom. 8:3-4 The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in US, that is paying tithes. Num.18:26 Note: The Levites were to TAKE tithes of the children of Israel.
Note the following scripture and the tenses in the statement.
“And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him’. Heb. 7:5-10
“And verily they that ARE (present tense) the “SONS OF LEVT’ (the ministry Mal. 3:10) who RECEIVE (present tense) the office of the priesthood, HAVE (present tense) a COMMANDMENT TO TAKE TITHES of the people according to the law (system)”. Note the use of the present tense in the above verse.
Please note four things:
1. The ministry is now in the place of the Priesthood, who “are the sons of Levi”.
2. The ministry is now instructed to “take tithes of the People”;
3. Tithes are to be taken “according to the law”. (System)
4. The ministry who takes tithes also PAYS tithes.
“And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.” Neh. 10:38 Tithes are brought to the church and not sent to the foreign field, sent to support a TV broadcast, given to the poor, or distributed as the individual chooses. The church is the “storehouse” or “treasure house” and it is the responsibility of the pastor to disburse for the use of the ministry as he is directed of God.
Num.18:26-31 The Levites were to offer an “heave offering” consisting of a tenth part of the tithe. This tithe of the tithe was to be given to Aaron and included gifts they received. Verse 24 –
The tithe of the people was given to the Levites as their inheritance. They were to tithe of this tithe as it was their income, the equivalent to the people’s increase.
To deny or restrict the ministry of their income is wrong. Jealousy, envy, resentment are often the root causes behind such restrictions. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” 1 Cor. 9:13-14 If paying tithes and giving offerings was not required in the New Testament Church, where did the material substance (money) come from, that provided a living for the preachers of the gospel, if tithing was not practiced and a storehouse established to receive their contributions? The ministry is to live of the things of the temple (church) and they that are ordained to preach the gospel should live of the gospel indicating some form of systematized income. (The tithing system). See also Gal. 6:6 and Neh.13:10-12.
These principles were in force BEFORE the law, DURING the law and AFTER the law. Under the law the use of tithes was for those who did the service (Levites and Priests) of the tabernacle/temple, however the use of the tithe now is for the ministry of the church, that there may be “meat” in my house.
The Law of Tithes
Consider the following scriptures on the “Law of Tithes”.
Lev. 27:30 -32 “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 unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.” This passage states ALL the tithe belongs to the Lord. We pay our tithe to God, not the pastor. The pastor gets the use of it but it is God’s payment for his service.
The tithe is to be paid at the place God chooses (storehouse – church) and not where one may choose on their own. “But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.” Deut. 12:5-8 Today, as stated previously, this place is the local church where the individual has placed their membership. See also Deut. 12:5-8, 10-14
Num. 18:21-31 “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’s heave offering to Aaron the priest Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof even the hallowed part thereof out of it Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. In these verses God gives the “tenth” to the Levites (ministry) and gives instructions how it is to be used and the freedom of its use. This is their pay-check for the service in the tabernacle. Note also Num. 18:26-31
“Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:8-11
If we sow spiritual things, it is not unreasonable to reap carnal things. We are not to muzzle the mouth of the Ox that treadeth out the corn. The pastor and the ministry is not to be denied that which is their right to have. God will take good care of those who serve at His pleasure. Remember this one thing, God is the pastor’s paymaster and He will not defraud anyone who has been commissioned by Him to do service for the people of God. Even if there is a shortage of tithes because the people fail to pay, God is still obligated to take care of Iris own “employees”. There is however, one restriction. When God promises to take care of His servants, He does not intend for them to be extravagant or wasteful of the blessings the servant receives. The pastor must always remember that he is the steward of God’s substance and is not to become greedy for filthy lucre or to strive to follow the trends and fashions of the world.
“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.” Deut. 14:22-23 To truly pay one’s tithes is not to hold back but to consider all their increase, in what ever form, when paying tithes. (Tithes are paid on the gross earnings and any other form of increase).
“Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.” Exod. 22:29-30. One of the problems in paying tithes is, to put it off. God requires one to pay on time. To delay is to add a double burden the next time and often one becomes so far behind that they fail to pay at all. It is far better to pay one’s tithes as the income comes to them without delay. There have been cases where one has fallen so far behind in paying their tithes and allowed the devil to discourage them into thinking there was no use to continue serving God, they have backsliden from the church. Satan works on a guilty conscience and will use any and every ploy he can to recapture those who have once been delivered from his hand.
Neh. 13:5, 10-12 The Levites had to return to the fields because the people failed to pay their tithes. This is the same as forcing the pastor to return to his secular job in order to support his family because the church members fail to tithe as they should. Many disgruntled church members have tried to use this tactic, failing to pay their tithes, in an effort to force a pastor to leave the church so they could get one to their own liking. If the pastor is really God’s person, he will stick it out and God will prove deliverance.
2 Chron. 31:4. 10 The Ministry is “encouraged” because the people paid their tithes.
Ezek. 44:30 By paying tithes, the ministry will “cause” a blessing to rest on your house.
Neh.12:44 When the Levites and Priests received their tithes, the people rejoiced for them.
1 Thes. 5:12-13 We are to “esteem” the ministry highly.
When the total tithe had been given, they were to testify, that is to acknowledge, that all had been paid. In other words, they had to give a record of the tithe paid. Today this is done through our method of tithes envelopes. It is a necessity in today’s time to keep accurate records of membership donations for tax purposes and also to justify church income and expenditures in the event of potential government inspection of church finances. Deut. 26:12-14
2 Chron. 24:4-6 It is the responsibility of the ministry to teach the people to tithe and if the ministry fails, they will be called into “question” why they did not.
Neh. 10:32-39 ; Num 18:26 The ministry is to pay tithes as do other people. Their tithe is given to the church treasury as part of their obligation for the “service of the sanctuary”. As Levi received tithes he also paid tithes. Vs. 32 The Levites were required to “charge themselves” to give a certain amount. This is the modern day authority for pledging to help carry on the burden of the needs of the church.
Aaron was given the responsibility of managing the money that came to the temple by reason of the “anointing” that rested on him. Here again the managing of church finances is the responsibility of the pastor by reason of the “anointing” invested in him or her.
They may delegate the work to others, but it is their responsibility to oversee the affairs of the church. “And the LORD spoke unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.” Num. 1 8 :8
Pastors, beware that you are not guilty of being greedy of “filthy lucre” and using all the tithes for yourself. They are for the MINISTRY, the assisting ministry in the local church and for the ministry in smaller churches where they are having a struggle. While it is true that smaller churches must use the majority of the tithe to support the pastor, that pastor must learn too, to live within his or her means and not try to compete with the larger churches with luxury cars, big homes and “things”. Remember too, the tithe of the tithe belongs to the church treasury.
The above article, “Tithes and Offerings” is written by Harry L. Herman. The article was excerpted from a portion of Herman’s book A Study Guide for Pastors, Ministers, and Deacons on Church Government.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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