A little bit different to what we usually post about here but I think the issue of how we use our resources to be highly important. Especially if what we're doing with it is in fact rather un-biblical. We are responsible for using our minds when answering sceptics objections, and we should be using it when we give our money away or feel pressured into doing so. This post will briefly describe tithing as understood in the Old Testament (OT) and in my next post on tithing I will examine some arguments given in support of Christian tithing and give a short response to each of the points.
So before we can get into any debate of whether or not we should tithe its important to define our terms. This is because many Christians start from the assumption that what they practice in their churches today is actually biblical tithing. However if you start from that assumption you will always misunderstand what tithing actually is and isn't. It may come as a surprise to many Christians but what is practised in many churches today is not tithing as prescribed in the scriptures. It also often comes as a surprise to Christians when they find out that Jesus and Paul wouldn't have tithed and that the total amount tithed by individuals whom actually met the specific requirements in the OT would have resulted in a total of 23%+. In fact its actually impossible to tithe biblically today. Especially so if your outside Israel as that already rules you out, not forgetting that there is no temple (destroyed in AD 70), storehouse, and no Levitical Priesthood to receive your tithe offerings.
OT biblical tithing worked in a 7 year agricultural cycle
known as the Shmittah cycle similar to the 7 days of creation.
The 7th day of creation was the day God rested from creation and the 7th
day of the week became known as the Sabbath, a time to honour God and
rest from work.
- Every 7th year was a time for the land to replenish itself known as the sabbatical year or Shmita.
this cycle there are four key terms that describe actions and tithes
made during this time and they are 1. Maaser Rishon, 2. Maaser Sheni, 3.
Maaser Ani and 4. Shmita. The term Maaser literally means "a tenth" and
can be applied to either agriculture (Cattle, wine, olive oil, grain
etc) or money. However there is only one exception where money was actually spoken about (Maaser Sheni). It can be safely argued that
99% of the time anything was tithed under the law in the OT it was
referring to agriculture and not finances. Tithing was applied
only to produce grown in Israel, anything else simply couldn't be tithed by definition. This meant that if you were part of a trade such as carpentry or tent-making (Jesus and Paul), one would not be obligated to tithe since your produce wasn't from the land of Israel. Giving a tenth was also a common practice in many
middle eastern nations/cultures and is mentioned in the OT before the
Law of Moses was given (Gen 14:17-20, 28:22). Tithing in middle eastern
culture was often used to support kings and religious sanctuaries.
Literally means first tithe. This was the 10% of an
individuals produce and would include grain, olive oil, wine, fruit or
cattle and was then given to the Levites. The Levites would then give
10% of that to the Priests as the Lords sacred portion as outlined
in Numbers 18:21-29. This tithe was to be performed on the 1st, 2nd,
3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th years of the Shemittah cycle. The Levites
served God as the spiritual leaders of Israel and because they had no
land inheritance as the other tribes this maaser served as their
livelihood. Part of the Levites job involved ministering to the priests
and looking after the Tabernacle (Num 18:4-6).