Friday, May 20, 2005

The One-Tenth Tax

Yesterday over lunch, I was discussing the issue of tithing with some friends. These questions were asked, “Will you rob God?” and “Why does God demand your tithe?”

The only places where tithes are mentioned in the New Testament are in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. There, the text seems to suggest that Jesus was less interested in the tithe than what he calls “the more important matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

So why do Christians get hung up on this issue of giving one-tenth of their income to the church?


The first biblical reference to this practice is found in Genesis 14:20. Abraham gives one-tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek, a priest later mentioned in the book of Hebrews as a shadow and type of the Messiah. Answers.com gives a good explanation of why Abraham would have willingly given this “tax” to the king of Salem:

The tithe, the Babylonian one-tenth tax, was simply part and parcel of the cultural baggage Abraham brought with him from Mesopotamia. He was without any doubt at all completely familiar with the concept of giving up ten-percent of whatever goods as tax.

In our discussion yesterday, the word “firstfruits” was used in place of tithes, since most Christians believe a tenth of your salary should come off the top, not from what’s left over. This idea of a firstfruits offering is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, but Deuteronomy 18:4 calls it a provision for the Levites, or Jewish priests. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”

From these passages, I gather that the “one-tenth tax” is applicable to everything from money to crops, or possessions. Is that requirement, or demand, applicable to those under the new covenant? Hasn’t Messiah Jesus fulfilled all requirements under the old covenant?

What I’m learning is that all of God’s commands, including tithing, are more about helping us and less about helping God. God doesn’t need our help. He certainly doesn’t need our finances or possessions. Both Old and New Testaments talk about his need for our love.

Deuteronomy 30:6
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus replied: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Consequently, both testaments promise life to those who follow this “golden rule.” So the questions I’m left with are this…

Does God need one-tenth or the whole me?

Has he circumcised my heart or not?
, and

Will the tithe help him do that?

3 comments:

VTwin4Him said...

I feel that I've been uder conviction for sometime, that I am robbing God, not being a good steward of what He has entrusted to me.

I feel in the depths of me soul that He doesn't need the whole me, but that He wants all of me, sold out, utterly dependent on Him, and Him alone.

Will the tithe help Him circumcise your heart, my heart? I think it's the sacraficial giving that comes from the reserves of Him in my heart, realization that I can't do it on my own. For me it's a trust issue when it comes down to it, in that He will provide and work out the 90% to cover what 100% would. In Malachi, as you refered to initially about will you rob God, the good news is further in that God says to test Him and see that he will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room to store it. We can trust in His faithfulness.

However, I feel that you're touching on more than money as you refered to, the circumcision of our hearts. I seek it everyday.

nolesrock said...

thanks, vt, for expressing yourself so well here

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