I recently had the opportunity to teach a six-week class on the Old Testament book of Malachi. Chapter three has some well-known verses about tithing. I have been asked my opinion on the subject many times over the past twenty years and I would like to share a few thoughts and scripture references with you.
Most would certainly agree that a tithe means ten percent. The question for many people is “ten percent of what and where does it go?” I have my opinions and I’m sure you do too, but that is a discussion for another day. Looking at the Old Testament we see that there were actually three tithes in God’s financial plan.
The tithe of the feasts (Deut. 14:22-27).
What was the purpose of these tithes at that time? I will leave it up to you to find an application in your life.
- The purpose of the Levitical Tithe was to provide for the priests and their families as they served God and His people. The Levites were not given a portion in the Land and were dependent about God and His people for their daily provision.
- The purpose of the Feasts tithe was on a much more personal level. Think about all of those feasts when you would take time off from work, pack up the family, and head to Jerusalem. Passover was eight days, Tabernacles seven days so for two feasts you have about two weeks of “family vacation with a spiritual purpose.”
- The third tithe was for the poor and was taken up every three years. I think the importance and application of this tithe is self-explanatory.
The Israelites failed to keep these laws many, many times, but that does not mean that God’s Way failed. When the people stopped tithing, the Levites had to leave their service and “find a day job”. People stopped going to the festivals and no longer spent those vital days with their families in worship and renewal. The poor continued to be poor without compassionate relief. Actions have consequences and so does lack of action.
Final food for thought: I believe we can apply these principals as part of a Biblical financial plan without being legalistic as the Pharisees did at the time of Jesus. Matthew 23:23