Understanding the Tithe
Levy a tax for the Lord from the men of war who went out to battle: one in five hundred of the persons and of the cattle and of the donkeys and of the sheep; take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest, as an offering to the Lord. “From the sons of Israel’s half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys and of the sheep, from all the animals, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of the Lord.” Moses and Eleazar the priest did just as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Numbers 31:28–31, NASB95)
Before crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the warriors of Israel went up against the nation of the Midianites, and gained a decisive victory. This battle give us insight into how military battles were paid for by the nation of God. One half of the bounty of war was to go to the people of the nation, and the other half to the warriors. Then each halfwas to give a portion to the priest and the Levites. To the Levites, the warrior would give 1/500th and the citizens of the nation would give 1/50th. Since the Levites and the priests were to receive 1/10th of the first fruits (a tithe), why is the standard different for war? If you study the law closely, you will realize that the tithe was a very specific law, for specific people, to be paid at specific times, in a specific place. You’re fooling yourself if you think that giving 10% of your income to the local church brings you into obedience with the Old Testament law.
In today’s Christian world, giving 10% of your income as a tithe, it is often said, is the standard for Christian believers. As Biblical as this may seem, I am convinced that it’s not Biblical at all. When one studies the tithe, he comes to the realization that the Old Testament tithe was a tax on agricultural goods for the support of the religious system of the theocracy. When Jesus commanded the Pharisees for the payment of tithes, he mentioned that the tithe they were paying was on agricultural products. I’m afraid that today Christians give 10% and are convinced they are in right standing with God. The New Testament teaches grace-giving, not giving under legalistic compulsion. Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver!”
In His Grace;
Dr. Randy White
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