Giving: give

So, you have managed to see yourself as blessed. Moreover, you now see yourself as rich, too. You went ahead and also invested your riches and multiplied them. What’s the next step? What does the Bible teach about the third step which completes the cycle?

Give. As simple as that. But give like you mean it. Not a bit here and a bit there to suit and maintain clear your own conscience.

Happily, there’s a starting point set for us already – 10%. This is what God instructed his people to give in the Old Testament and Jesus confirmed in the New. It’s important also to realize that this is not a piece of advice given to us which we can decide to follow only when we wish to. Tithe, the 10% – it’s not optional.

Before we move on to the really difficult part, however, let’s have a look at Malachi 3:10. It’s one of the many verses which by their misinterpretations a lot of people have turned into walking on a fine line, but in spite of this it remains a promise of God. He says:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

– Malachi 3:10, NIV

As He often does, when it comes to giving God also attaches a promise to his command. Twisted desires throughout time have led many to believe in giving for the sake of receiving. This, however, is a concept foreign to the Bible. This is not some ages old metaphor of what is today recognized as a vending machine. God doesn’t work on this principle. A true and honest believer knows and recognizes this.

Much more is said about tithing in the Bible but I would like to draw your attention to one of the most important passages – Leviticus 27:30. It speaks the important truth that the tithe belongs to the Lord. Yes, God could retain His bit before giving us His blessings but that’s not the point. Throughout our lives God ensures that all communication is bi-directional. By putting the ball in our hands, God ensures that our faith, trust and experience with Him grow continually. You and I are given an opportunity to exercise this. More importantly, because this bit of our possessions already belongs to God you need to see it as giving back, which is only part of the total giving. It’s not optional (withholding from God what belongs to Him is simply not what we’re called to do) and it doesn’t constitute the entire amount.

I know that for many people it’s difficult to start giving more than these basic 10%. However, I’ve found out that through taking the step of faith and trust in God the floodgates have been opened above me. When I gave 10% whatever was left was enough. Later on, when I started giving more, surprisingly, whatever was left was still enough. More than enough, actually. There is also a bonus – I learned to better distinguish what is essential from what isn’t. I see myself as one who has been put in charge of the stuff around me rather than a mere owner, a possessor who would cling to these items. It has not only given me more freedom but I have taken part in achieving what was ultimately intended for God’s blessing – that they continue to be passed onward to those who are in need of them.

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 Discussion (3)

Gary Arnold

First, I agree with most of what you say about giving. But…..

In the Old Testament, God gave commands for three distinct tithes:

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.

Notice that in all three tithes, the tenth came from GOD’S miraculous increase of food from crops and animals, NOT from man’s income.

The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus did not tithe as a carpenter. Paul did not tithe as a tent maker. Peter did not tithe as a fisherman.

When Jesus “confirmed” the tithe in Matthew 23:23, he was merely telling those who were under the Levitical Priesthood that they ought to tithe AS MATTERS OF THE LAW. There is no teaching of tithing after Calvary. The New Testament didn’t begin until after Calvary.

You are taking Malachi 3:10 out of context. Let’s start with Malachi 3:7 (KJV) “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ORDINANCES, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?”

In other words, they were robbing God by not following God’s ORDINANCES. Those ORDINANCES are in Numbers 18 were God commanded His tithe be taken to the Levites. Furthermore, Colossians 2:14 (KJV) “Blotting out the handwriting of ORDINANCES that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

The Israelite farmers and herdsmen did NOT take their tithe to the Temple or any Storehouse. In Nehemiah 10:37 we learn that the firstfruits were taken to the temple for the priests, and the tithes were taken to the Levites who lived in the Levitical cities. In Nehemiah 10:38 we learn that the Levites would take a tithe of the tithe to the Temple. It is this tithe, the tithe from the Levites, that went to the storehouse, not the tithe from the people. This is important to remember when we study Malachi 3:10.

The New Testament teaches 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.

Petar Neychev

Gary,

Thanks for stopping by and contributing! I highly appreciate your input and it has helped me process the topic even deeper.

I read through most of your site (the book download link didn’t work, btw.) and I believe overall we are on the same page. Perhaps a few paragraphs apart.

I understand that the mention of 10% in particular is troubling because it’s a specific amount (more on that later). Also, the term “tithe” itself is kind of polluted by (mis)interpretations. I agree that the OT tithing system as described in Scripture was very specific for its context. However, this type of giving (of one tenth) didn’t first appear with the Mosaic Law. An instance of such action is recorded in Genesis 14:20b (although Abram later did give back a lot more than that). Another reference is Genesis 28:22. The tenth giving to leaders and priests has probably existed for a long time in ancient cultures – as a way of tax collection, leadership recognition, etc. This aspect of it – as recognizing the lordship and kingship is particularly clear in Genesis 28:22. Although here the mention is in the form of a promise, my point is that it derives from an already existing practice carrying a certain meaning.
The new law doesn’t erase the founding principle which God had placed behind the OT tithing system. It actually builds up on it to an entirely new level, which as you pointed out, makes things even more difficult. One cannot anymore just give the 10% and be done with it – a lot more is required. This, however, doesn’t mean that one cannot start at 10%.

The OT tithing system clearly cannot be applied in literal terms today. Other things from the Bible no longer apply in literal terms either, I’m sure you’ll agree. That’s not what I meant in my original post either. However, God instituted this system for a reason. The principle behind this system is what remains valid throughout time and culture. This principle and all that comes along and as a result of it is what I’ve been trying to emphasize in this three post series.

As I wrote above, the 10% is a mere starting point. Why keep the number? Out of simple practical reasons. People generally do better when they are given a guideline, an indication. Throughout, the emphasis remains on the giving itself. The numbers will increase and they actually have to. Experience has showed me that explaining to people the matter of sacrifice is much easier and possible when setting a starting point. The same is valid when it comes to implementing that explanation in practice.

Another point you made is regarding the stuff that’s being given. While in the OT system certain things were specified, I believe that in the Bible as a whole, we see that all we are given comes from God. Creation is at our disposal. This is not only a matter of money, it’s about skills, time, knowledge, etc. etc. In all three of my posts I have purposefully tried to avoid listing any of the “stuff” because it clearly is about everything (and not just about cash). Perhaps I should have been clearer but I hope this clarifies any confusion.

Now, having said all this, I hope that the main point is clearer. Namely, that once we recognize God’s blessings (in any form or shape), embrace them and be faithful in multiplying them (the principle of good stewardship), the giving is a must. Anything we can lay our hands on is there because God has allowed it to be so. Because of this, as we give, we ought to give from everything as is needed.

I guess there’s a lot of people out there who perceive tithing in what can be described as a Pharisee-ish way. Give 10% of your financial income to your local church alone because you must give it and you’re done. That’s never been my view, actually, but my guess is that this is exactly what you’re trying to clarify. With my three brief posts I’m actually trying to do exactly the same. Whether the use of the number 10 as percentage is now resolved or not, I hope that my line of thought is clearer.

Jay

Pesho.
Excellent writing as always. Thank you for modeling what it means to be a cheerful (generous) giver. May God bless you.

Jay