In one breath, church Pastors tell their congregations that the Law of Moses has been abolished – no matter what the Messiah actually said. But then, with their next breath, they order the offering plates to be sent around to collect everybody’s “tithe,” which is the one part of the Law of Moses that is still somehow valid.
As you probably know very well already, the Law of Moses is still very much valid. Committing incest, bestiality, adultery and murder are all still wrong. Thus, the commandment to offer a tithe is ALSO still very much an active commandment!
Do you “pay tithes?”
If you THINK you pay your tithes, then read below to find out what a tithe actually is, what it’s actually used for, where it has to be brought, who is allowed to receive it, and whether or not it is even possible to perform today. By the end of this study, you’ll probably be VERY surprised, a little frustrated and a little relieved.
Where Do I Tithe?
The first example we see in the Bible of the tithe offering is found all the way back in Genesis when Abraham offered his own tithe:
Gen. 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. now he was a priest of Elohim Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of Elohim Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be Elohim Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.
Did you see the place where this happened at? Melchizedek was the King of a place called “Salem.” Keep that in mind as we skip ahead to Moses’ time.
Deut. 12:17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. 18 But you shall eat them before YHWH your god in the place which YHWH your god will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before YHWH your god in all your undertakings.
So the tithe is (with one exception) ONLY to be offered in the place “where YHWH shall choose” which is a direct reference to His holy place – Jerusalem. Jeru… SALEM. Do you see it yet? This is where Abraham offered his tithe centuries before!
Now, what about that exception? There is a time when the tithe IS to be eaten in our own cities, but we’ll look at that in a later section of this study.
When Do I Tithe?
The tithe is actually an ANNUAL offering brought to the Temple / Tabernacle once each year.
Deut. 14:22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.
For Whom Is the Tithe?
The tithe offering is the inheritance of ONE of the TWELVE tribes of Israel. Consequently, this tribe had no inheritance of land, so this was their sustenance. It is worth noting here that this tribe (Levi) is one of the ten LOST TRIBES of Israel. They undoubtedly still have a remnant left in the world today, but it is really impossible to know who might actually be a descendent of the Tribe of Levi (a Levite).
Num. 18:21 To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.
And the tithe isn’t JUST for the Levites either. When you bring your offering, you get to enjoy the first meal of it with the Levites, so your tithe is not just for them, but for you and your household as well!
Deut. 14:26 … and there you shall eat in the presence of YHWH your god and rejoice, you and your household.
The Third Year
There is an exception to the tithe offering that comes every three years. Instead of bringing the tithe to the Temple (which I might mention doesn’t exist today and hasn’t for nearly 2,000 years) and offering it only to the Levites, it was to be eaten within our own cities and shared by several groups of people (to include the Levites of our own communities):
Deut. 14:28 At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29 The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that YHWH your god may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Of What Do I Tithe?
The tithe is an agricultural, food offering. It consists of fruits, oils, wines, animals and grains.
Deut. 14:23 You shall eat in the presence of YHWH your god, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear YHWH your god always.
Can’t I Just Write a Check / Pay Cash?
Here’s something your Pastor might be praying right now that you never read: the tithe CANNOT be offered in anything other than FOOD. Our tithe can be SOLD if we live too far from the Temple to carry it all there conveniently, but once we arrive, we have to spend that money and buy… more food to offer.
Deut. 14:24 If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where YHWH your god chooses to set His name is too far away from you when YHWH your god blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which YHWH your god chooses. 26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of YHWH your god and rejoice, you and your household.
Once upon a time, two brothers named Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to YHWH. According to His Law, one of their offerings was acceptable and the other was not. And what was the difference? Abel offered his sacrifice according to the Law of YHWH. Cain, on the other hand, did what was right in his own eyes.
So let me ask you again, “Do you pay tithes?” Are you rendering an acceptable offering to YHWH according to the eternal Law that He established, or are you doing what seems right in your or your Pastor’s eyes?
Today, unfortunately, the tithe offering (like the Nazarene vow, daily oblation and etc.) is something that we are simply UNABLE to perform because we do not have a Temple. And while that is very frustrating to those of us whose hearts yearn to worship YHWH in every way possible, there is a consolation: at least we can stop paying a church 10% of our money!
“Substantial information on the tithe comes from the D source (ca. 650 B.C.E.), almost surely “the Book of the Law” discovered by the high priest Hilkiah in the Jerusalem temple in 621 B.C.E. during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kgs 22:3–20). Chapters 12, 14, and 26 of Deuteronomy provide extensive regulations for tithing. The people are instructed to tithe the following resources: seed, grain, wine, oil, and firstlings of herds and flocks (Deut 24:22–23). They are to consume the tithes of grain, wine, oil, and firstlings as a sacrificial meal in a place chosen by God. Since the discovery of the Book of the Law generated a reformation of Israelite worship on the part of Josiah, and since one of Josiah’s major reforms was the centralization of worship in Jerusalem, it appears certain that he understood the place chosen by God for the bringing of the tithes to be Jerusalem. The family or extended family is to eat the meal together. The family is also to invite a Levite from the family’s town to eat the meal with them, since the Levites possess no land and thus have no tithes of their own to bring (Deut 14:27). If the distance to the place for the sacrificial meal (i.e., Jerusalem) is too great for the family to be able conveniently to bring all their tithes, the tithes are to be sold for money and the money brought to the place for the meal (Deut 14:24–26). The family then uses the money to buy whatever food and drink they desire for the meal. The family is to use their tithes for a sacrificial meal for two consecutive years out of every three. On every third year the tithe is to be kept within the town and given to the Levite, the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow, because they do not possess land (Deut 14:28–29; 26:12).”
- Christian Wilson, “TITHE,” Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 6:579.