Here's how to tithe under OT and NT

The writer has been a Sabbath-keeper for 26 years and an "independent" Church of God member since 1996, having also attended with the Worldwide Church of God and Global Church of God.

By Richard Heath

VERO BEACH, Fla.--It goes without saying that the established Churches of God have continued along the lines that were first set down in our parent organization, the Worldwide Church of God, when it comes to tithes and offerings.

The system more or less dictates that 10 percent of a person's income (wages) is "first tithe" and should go to the church to be spent as it deems appropriate.

A second 10 percent is to be saved for the member's transportation to, and enjoyment of, the annual festivals.

A third 10 percent is to be set aside in the third and sixth years of a seven-year cycle to aid the poor, orphaned and widowed as well as the ministry (spiritual Levites?).

I am not against giving, nor am I critical towards anyone who decides to give to the church organization of his choice. After all, God loves a cheerful giver.

This is more a comment on semantics. Is giving, offering or pledging ("vowing," in Deuteronomy 12:11) money or other wealth the same thing as tithing?

I would like to share a short study on what I have found in the Bible.

Two Hebrew words

The word tithe specifically comes from two Hebrew words. One is seemingly a noun (Strong's No. 4643 for "a tithe" or "the tithe"), the other is apparently a verb (No. 6237, "to tithe").

Both words, however, mean 10 percent, not 20 or 30 percent.

In the New Testament the same thing is true. A noun (Strong's No. 1181) and two verbs (Nos. 1183 and 586) are used.

Again, the specific proportion that is defined is just 10 percent.

The Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) contains about half of the pages about tithing in the Old Testament:

  • Genesis 14:20: Abram gave tithes of war booty to Melchizedek.
  • Genesis 28:22: Jacob promised to tithe his increase to YHWH if YHWH would bless him.
  • Leviticus 27:30-32: Tithes are identified as one 10th of the seed of the land (crops), the fruit of the trees and animals of the flock or herd.
  • Numbers 18:21-28: The Levites are to inherit the tithes of other tribes of Israel. In turn, they are to tithe of these tithes to the Aaronic priesthood.
  • Deuteronomy 12:6-17: The tithe is to be brought, and enjoyed, to where YHWH chooses.
  • Deuteronomy 14:22-28: Israel was to save the tithe every year (that is, every six out of seven), but every third year the Israelites were to distribute it to the Levites, fatherless, widows and others less fortunate or poor. (Verse 25 is the only instance where the tithe is converted to money.)
  • Deuteronomy 26:12: Finally, the law of giving the tithe in the third year (as per Deuteronomy 14) is reiterated.

Rooms for the tithes

Later in the Old Testament, Hezekiah built storerooms to keep the tithes in, in the house of YHWH. Nehemiah did the same thing when the second temple was constructed. The Old Testament ends with a warning that Israel shouldn't rob YHWH of His tithes (Malachi 3:8-10).

The following, then, is a synopsis of the definition of tithing and how to do it in the Old Testament scriptures.

You will notice that tithes are never spoken of as being figured on wages or money (gold, silver, etc.), with the sole exception of Genesis 14:20 (Abram and Melchizedek). In that case it was made on what we would call unearned income. Modern examples might include lottery winnings or game-show prizes (not that I advocate such things) or interest income.

Only the Levites were to pay a tithe of the tithe (Numbers 18:26-28). Interestingly, only one tithe is ever indicated. The Levites received their portion of the tithes in the third (and sixth) year, along with the less-blessed Israelites.

New Testament tithing

Tithing is not done away with in the New Testament. It still consisted of 10 percent of the fruit of the ground and herd, as is indicated in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42.

The longest dissertation about tithing in the New Testament is in Hebrews 7:2-9. It is this passage that has been used to promote the idea that the tithes that belong to Levi should now go to the New Testament ministry.

So let's look at it quickly to see if this is so.

Abram tithed to Melchizedek (verses 1-3). The Levitical priesthood has been superseded by that of Melchizedek (verses 11-12); that is, of our Savior Himself.

Tithes (the increase of one's garden and animals) are now to be given to the Messiah. But how can this be done?

An interesting quote from the Messiah in Matthew 25:34-40 concludes like this:

"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."

In conclusion, tithing is never figured on gold, silver, money or any other type of inert (nonproducing) wealth--in the Old or New Testament.

Yahoshua (Jesus) Himself has now inherited the tithes, the inheritance of Levi.

Our Master has given specific instructions on one way that His tithes can be utilized in Matthew 25, although I'm sure there are other ways.

If a person is inspired to give money or other wealth to one of the ministries, there is certainly no commandment against it.

However, there is absolutely no biblical precedent that it is necessary or obligatory.

The leaders of the Churches of God should not intimate such a thing, for it is obviously a twisting of the Scriptures.

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