I Will Surely Give The Tenth Unto Thee
Did you know that the majority of Christians do not support, financially, the work of God? It’s true. For whatever reason—and trust me, we’ve heard them all—they struggle with the issue of paying tithes. Some feel their money is going directly to a man instead of to God. Others feel that tithing was something God required only in the Old Testament, way back when He was in a bad mood, and it’s no longer relevant under the new covenant, under grace. Believers who do give want to do so on their terms, when they feel they can afford it, and they don’t want to be made to feel guilty for choosing when or how much. “It’s a private matter,” they say, “between God and me.”
My husband and I agree, it is between the believer and God. Throughout our ministry, the only thing we’ve said regarding people giving is that they pray and ask God what He would have them do. We say that because we know what He would have them do—when it comes to giving, the Bible is very clear.
When Did Tithing Start?
Many Christians think, erroneously, that tithing originated with the law of Moses and does not apply to the new covenant, but that is not the case. As my husband notes, tithing was and is in every covenant.
In Genesis 4:4, the Bible says, “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” The firstlings were representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s firstborn, whom He would give in sacrifice. So, the law of the firstling—or firstborn—applies to our finances as well, which includes tithing.
But it’s Genesis 14 that records the first instance of tithing to the work of the Lord, when Abraham (then Abram) paid tithe to Melchizedek:
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all” (Gen. 14:18-20).
Abraham had gone out to war, and in those days, whoever won the battle got the spoil. So Abraham paid tithe on all of the bounty taken from this battle, and he gave it to Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ.
In turn, we see Melchizedek bless Abraham. He also blessed the Lord, giving Him praise and glory—and the credit, you might say—for delivering Abraham from his enemies. This tells us that the Lord greatly helped Abraham in that conflict because without the Lord’s help, it would have been impossible for him and his small band of soldiers to defeat the enemy’s army—something every Christian should keep in mind.
So Abraham, a type of the church (Rom. 4:16), paid tithe to Melchizedek, a type of Christ (Ps. 110:1-4). Today, the present-day church—children of Abraham—continue the practice of paying tithes to those carrying out the work of God.
Also in the book of Genesis, we find Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, making the first recorded vow in the Bible, which included tithing:
“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen. 28:20-22).
Again, there was no Mosaic law at this time, nor was there such a thing as money. There was no tabernacle or temple. There was no priest. There was no synagogue. So how did Jacob pay his tithe? By offering up every tenth lamb. That’s why the apostle Paul likened our giving to the sacrificial system: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2).
Giving, therefore, ties back to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God.
Tithing Under The Law
Under the Mosaic law, Israel was required to give to the Lord twenty-three and a third percent of their income as follows:
1. A ten percent portion went to the Levites, including the priests for their service to the tabernacle as this was their only means of support (Lev. 27; Num. 18).
2. A ten percent portion covered travel expenses for the required attendance of the three national feasts each year at the temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:24-25).
3. A three and a third percent was for the fatherless, widows, and strangers—charity to relieve the suffering of the poor (Deut. 14:28-29).
Tithing Under The New Covenant
If Abraham’s grandson paid tithe, which Jacob did, then we, as the children of Abraham, are to do the same.
From the start of the church (marked by the Day of Pentecost) until now, believers give ten percent of their income, and there is no passage in the Word of God that abrogates this practice.
In the Gospels, under the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Lord had countless opportunities to speak out against tithing, to stop it, but He never did. Instead, He called His disciples together to observe a destitute widow drop two mites into the treasury, and He said, “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”(Mk. 12:43-44).
When that certain poor widow entered the temple that day, my husband notes, possibly with much concern and anxiety on her mind respecting her poverty-stricken state, how little did she know that the Lord of glory would be there, He would see her, and that her story would be known for time and eternity. Even so, the Lord is watching still, not only what is done outwardly, but also the motives of our hearts.
In II Corinthians 8 and 9, the Holy Spirit through Paul gives the greatest dissertation on giving found in the entirety of the Word of God, and yet the word tithe is not mentioned. Why? While tithing is incumbent upon the child of God, giving under the new covenant is intended to go beyond ten percent. The idea is this: everything that we have belongs to God; it is at His disposal, so when it comes to giving, we should be sensitive and responsive to His leading. God must come first in all things in our lives, and that includes our financial resources.
All of the teaching that the apostle gives in these two chapters seems to be summed up in this: “He who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:6-7).
Fulfilling the Great Commission and taking the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world always has and always will cost money. Bible scholar C.M. Ward said, “The gospel can only go as far as the dollar bill takes it.” The missionaries don’t travel to foreign countries for free, somebody has to send them. Remember, someone gave so that the gospel could be brought to you.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-15)
As Donnie has pointed out, under grace, no one is standing over you saying, “You’ve got to give ten percent.” As believers, we should look at the tithe—the tenth—as a place to start. We don’t give out of a spirit of obligation, nor out of fear that if we don’t give a certain amount then God will be mad at us. No, we give out of deep gratitude for what Jesus Christ did for us on Calvary.
Where Do I Pay My Tithe?
We believe the tithe should go to wherever that believer is being spiritually fed with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many churches today are feeding their congregations false doctrines.
If the tithe we give to the Lord does not advance the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, then we are not really paying tithe. This is the gospel that must be supported. Anything else is of little consequence.
Pay My Tithe Or My Bills?
A lot of people write or call with this question, especially those who are on a fixed income, and they want to give, but they’re afraid that if they do, they won’t have enough money to meet their monthly bills. We respond to this in two ways: First, ask the Lord what He would have you do, and second, try to give something. I can’t tell you how many testimonies we’ve received from people on fixed incomes who decided to give a dollar or maybe five dollars a month, and afterward experienced the Lord blessing them in different ways to where they were soon able to give a little more each month. So start giving something to the Lord, even if it’s your time as a volunteer in the church, and He will begin to bless your faithfulness.
Excuse Not To Give
John 3:16 tells why God gave His Son—because He loved the world. Usually, when people argue about why they shouldn’t have to give to the work of God, it’s because they lack love for the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done in their hearts and lives. The apostle Paul said, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”
(II Cor. 8:8).
As Donnie said, “My salvation is worth far more than a dime on a dollar. Who would not want to give ten percent of what comes into their hands just to say thank you for what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for them?”
As you become a faithful tither, I believe you will experience the blessing of God, which is so beautifully illustrated in the book of Ruth:
“And when she (Ruth) was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.” (Ruth 2:15-16).
God is a blessing God, as shown here through Boaz on behalf of Ruth. Why did Boaz do this for Ruth? Why did he show her this courtesy? It was because, whether he realized it or not, he was already falling in love with her. So it is with God and us—even though we were strangers, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the promise, still, despite our lowly Gentile position and our poverty-stricken state, He loved us. God came to where we were gleaning in the field, trying to get a little sustenance, and He gave instructions that there should be “handfuls of purpose” left on our behalf. God loves you, and He wants to bless you with handfuls of purpose—for the purpose of blessing those carrying out His work and helping to spread His gospel.