This week, continuing the challenge to “think on ‘things,’” I’m writing about tithing. It means setting aside the first tenth of all your incomes and giving it as an offering to the Lord. The Law of Moses required all faithful Israelites to tithe (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:20-32; Deuteronomy 12:5-11, 14:22-29). They gave it to the Levites (the priestly tribe) for their living, maintaining the central place of worship, and to take care of the poor. There were occasions in which an Israelite was required to give 15% (i.e. when he would benefit from or partake of the tithe himself), and the people were encouraged to give free will offerings above the tithe if they were able and (as “free will” suggests) willing.
The question often arises among Christians, “Do I have to tithe?” The strictly biblical answer is no, because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us and God no longer desires to legislate the specific amount a faithful Christian must give. He wants to see what we are freely willing to give through grace (2Corinthians 9:6-11). Some have said, “If the Israelites were required by the Law to give their first 10%, that’s a good place for those of us freed from the Law by grace to start.” I can’t argue with that. A disciple who has a real sense of the Christian mission will want to give as much as possible, and will not need to ask how much he’s required to give.
In the last book of the Old Testament, God issued a challenge to his people. “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:8-10). The promise there is similar to the one in 2Corinthians 9. So, as you think about how much God has given you, I hope you’ll realize everything you have is his to give and take away (Job 1:21). Whether you tithe, or whether you look at the tithe as simply a good place to start, accept the Lord’s challenge. Give—generously—and keep on giving! Give God a chance to pass the test!