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Tithing – What is it?

When I was last on holidays I read a book that had been on my shelves for a while on the issue of tithing. It was not long after this it was suggested for me to encourage people to ‘tithe’ as it would help our financial position as a church.

It is part of my plan to look at this whole topic in 2017 in a sermon or two but I also wanted to address it via a series of newsletter articles. So here is the first of 3 newsletter articles on the issue of tithing.

What Is Tithing?
For some of us the word tithe is known but not really what it means. It is here we run into our first hurdle. Tithing is said to be all about giving God 10% (where the word tithe has its origins) of our income. But it is not that simple. Do we give God 10% of all our income or our income once taxes and expenses are taken out? The reason why we need to ask the question is that in the bible it is very vague about what tithe is based upon.

Bible References
Bible references to tithing are relatively limited and we are also pretty unsure of how the OT tithe worked in the context of sacrificial gifts , temple taxes and other economic demands on God’s people like the year of Jubilee. So it is pretty simplistic and not actually biblical to claim it is just a matter of giving 10% to the church (or to the work of God).

Here are all the clear references to tithing in the Bible:
Matthew 23:23
Luke 11:42, 18:12
Hebrews 7:1-10
Genesis 14:17-20, 28:18-22
Leviticus 27:30-33
Numbers 18:21-32
Deuteronomy 12:5-19, 14:22-27, 14:28-29, 26:12-15, 16:13-17
1 Samuel 8:11-17
2 Chronicles 31:4-12
Nehemiah 10:36-39, 12:44
Amos 4:4
Malachi 3:8-12

One thing you would see if you study these references is that different tithes are mentioned for different uses at different times. If the proponents of modern day tithing were to take everything the OT said regarding tithes then there are three different tithes mentioned that would amount to giving 10% per year to the temple workers, 10% per year to the poor and widows and 10% every three years is also given and it is referred to as the year of tithe. This works out as a 23 1/3 % per year ‘tithe’. It should also be noted that in the OT social and economic context there is no income tax applied but there is a year of Jubilee where debts are cancelled every 50 years.

As you look at the NT passages you would see that there no NT basis or demand to ‘transport the tithe’ from is OT context apply it to followers of Jesus under the new covenant.

Now there is much more to say on this but we will have to wait for next week.