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Carpe Tithem: How tithing can invigorate your faith

By Bishop Margaret G. Payne, May 7, 2012

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About the Author

The Rev. Margaret G. Payne serves as the bishop of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.See Bishop Margaret G. Payne's website.

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  1. Which of the Biblical tithes do you believe we should engage in?

    THE FIRST TITHE
    Leviticus 27:30-33 defines this tithe as a tenth of crops and animals in herds and flocks.
    Numbers 18 gives the ordinances, or instructions, for this tithe, and commands this tithe be taken to the Levites.
    Purpose of this tithe: to support the Levitical Priesthood.

    SECOND TITHE
    Deuteronomy 14:22-27: aka The Festival Tithe – a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.
    Purpose of this tithe: “that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always”

    THIRD TITHE
    Deuteronomy 14:28-29: aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe – a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.
    Purpose of this tithe: to feed the poor.

    All three tithes commanded by God came from HIS increase of crops and animals, NEVER money, and NEVER from anyone’s income.

    OR, do you advocate we should follow man’s tithing doctrine that started in the late 1800s?

  2. Well, it seems to me that crops and livestock would be appropriate for an economy that is entirely agricultural. Now we are in a money economy. For those of us who neither farm nor ranch, how would you suggest we satisfy God’s command for us to tithe, except by money?

    Thanks for raising this interesting issue. Any other thoughts out there?

  3. You are mistaken when you say the economy was entirely agricultural.

    The Bible shows they not only had money, but that money was used as a common way of doing business.

    According to the International Bible Encyclopedia, the days of mere bartering ended before the days of Abraham.

    Here are just a few examples from The Word to show they did, in fact, use money in Biblical times.

    The tithing law itself proves they had both money and a marketing system for buying and selling their crops and animals (Deuteronomy 14:24-26).

    THE PURCHASE OF LAND WITH MONEY BY ABRAHAM – Genesis 23:15-16

    THE PURCHASE OF LAND WITH MONEY BY JACOB – Genesis 33:19

    JOSEPH WAS SOLD TO THE ISHMEELITES FOR MONEY – Genesis 37:28

    A MONEY OFFERING TO BE USED FOR THE SERVICE OF THE TABERNACLE – Exodus 30:14-16,

    USING SHEKEL OF SILVER TO VALUE A RAM – Leviticus 5:15

    THE FOLLOWING VERSES REFER TO WAGES: Genesis 29:15, Genesis 30:28, Genesis 31:7-8, Genesis 31:41, Exodus 2:9, Leviticus 19:13, Malachi 3:5, etc.

    THEY HAD A MONEY STANDARD

    There are several places in Scripture indicating that scales were used to weigh metals and other items. The Law of Moses, for example, commands Jews not to use dishonest standards, but instead, to use honest scales and honest weights. (See also Deut. 25:13-15; Job 6:2-3; 31:6; Psa. 62:9; Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10, 23; Isa. 40:12; 46:6; and Jer. 32:10).

    Leviticus 19:35-36 – Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.

    In order for money to be an exchangeable equivalent for other commodities in today’s society, there must be a standard in place. Likewise, the Old Testament also had a set standard both prior to the law and during the law. A reference to a pre-law standard is in Genesis 23:16.

    Merchants in biblical times traveled from place to place conducting business. According to the written law, the standard weight for metals was set according to the sanctuary shekel (See also Ex 30:13, 24; 38:24-26; Lev. 5:15; Num. 7:13-86; 18:16).

    Leviticus 27:25 – Every value is to be set according to the sanctuary shekel, …

    In addition, 2 Samuel 14:26 shows that the weight standard for the shekel was set by the royal standard. No matter which era in history is studied, there existed a standard for the weight of precious metals.

    Money was also used throughout the law. For example, God’s people gave money to support the tabernacle (Ex. 30:14-16; 38:24-31). There are many other examples that illustrate money’s place within the written law and indicate that money was indeed a part of everyday life. Exodus 35 provides such an example.

    Exodus 35:5, 21-22 – From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering of gold, silver and bronze;

    And there are many more examples to show that money was used for everyday transactions well before the Levitical tithe.

    You don’t seem to understand the Biblical tithe.

    When God gave the Israelites the promised land, He RESERVED, for Himself, a tenth of the crops and every tenth animal. They NEVER did belong to the Israelites. In other words, the tithe was from God’s increase of FOOD, not from man’s income. It was a way to distribute FOOD to the Levites and priests who did NOT inherit any land.

    No one, not even the farmers, tithed on their income.

    The farmers made their income by SELLING and/or barter-exchanging their crops and animals but did NOT tithe on that income.

    Today, ALL born-again believers are priests. ALL of us are called to be deciples of the Lord. No one of us is higher than another. Our bodies are the Temple where the Spirit dwells. According to the scriptures, priests do not tithe.

  4. Thanks for sharing your research — you’ve given me lots to think about. Maybe instead of lifting up tithing as a biblical giving standard, we should teach Acts 4:32-35!

  5. Maybe we should teach what is actually taught to Christians in the New Testament: generous, sacrificial giving, from the heart, according to our means. For some, $1 might be a sacrifice, while for others, even giving 50% of their income might not induce a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, ONLY the farmers tithed, and it was equal percentage (a tenth). The New Testament teaches the principle of equal sacrifice instead of equal percentage. Equal sacrifice is much harder to achieve, if not impossible, than giving ten percent.

    Instead of focusing on how much we should give, maybe we should focus on how much we should (or should not) spend or keep for ourselves. I think Jesus is more concerned about what I keep for myself than he is on the amount I give. The Lord has not blessed me financially so that I can live high, but rather has blessed me financially so I can use a good part of that blessing to bless others.

  6. Amen brother! I couldn’t agree more!

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