Tithe – Support for the poor

So as we see in Deuteronomy, a portion of the tithe was to be given to the Levites and the poor. Let’s make sure we understand this. This should not be interpreted “the rich” and “the poor.” No. The Levites, not all of whom were priests, were without an inheritance, because they were set aside to the work of the temple.

You would not find those serving in the temple in the upper echelons of their society like you readily find in ours. Today, you find the servants of God boasting about driving the most expensive cars and living in multiple luxurious complexes all over the country and world, in the name of God, no less. Not then!

See, what today’s church has gotten into the habit of doing is only taking from scripture what supports their position and or desire; in this case, their endeavors to be rich, famous and powerful. If we were to apply the tithe as law to today’s church, we would have to demand that those dedicated to the work of the lord — to include missionaries, cleaning staff, along with pastors, bishops, musicians, and anyone else who, because of their call to serve the people of God, have had to walk away from all other profitable ventures — be limited to a livable wage. Here’s the balance. We don’t want them in lack, yet they are not called to a life that allows for excess. Their inheritance is the Lord, or will come directly from the Lord. If one wants to be rich, famous and powerful, and if that is the ambition they hold, so sorry. Wrong tribe, wrong calling!

The blatant irony here is that the old covenant law of tithe is now used to coerce and manipulate people into guilt, submission, and giving.

This is done in decided disregard for clear scripture that says giving should never be done under these conditions. 2 Co 9:7

Imagine that a man put a gun to a woman’s head, poised and ready to shoot, and then asked that woman, “Will you marry me?” If she says “Yes,” I would guess that it may not be because she loves him. She’s afraid! So many preachers and pastors are happily enjoying the benefits of their fear-induced rhetoric. Malachi also has this to say.

Malachi 3:5 “Yes, I’m on my way to visit you with Judgment. I’ll present compelling evidence against sorcerers, adulterers, liars, those who exploit workers, those who take advantage of widows and orphans, those who are inhospitable to the homeless – anyone and everyone who doesn’t honor me.” A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

The fact remains that we are undoubtedly not under the old covenant. We are stewards, and we recognize that it’s not 10% percent of what we have that belongs to God. It’s 100%.

Let’s be honest. The problem is that if we teach this truth, we have no idea how much people will give to our ministries. The fact that ministries are known and identified as “ours” is indicative of the problem.

Even in finances, especially as pastors and leaders of the church, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight, are we not? Walk by faith and not by pledges. Walk by faith and not by ill-gotten or manipulated gain. Walk by faith, and that means trusting God to lead His people in the area of giving and trusting the people to give to advance the kingdom of God and take care of the poor.

We ask people to trust God by giving a tithe. I sometimes wonder if we’re not really pressuring them to tithe because we lack the faith that God will take care of His body, His ministry, and His work. What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Tithe – Support for the poor

  1. Kwesi – this was very insightful reading. I had done some study on tithing some time ago and began to be intrigued by what I was learning. It also caught my attention how this differed from what my church was teaching.

    I will begin my dialogue here and speak to the African-American congregation. It is a shame that many of our churches operate in this type of slavery. The very thing that we fought hard against – remember how we cried for release from a master who tried to use the Bible to support their behavior. Sadly, many of our churches are doing the same in this new millenium. Church has become big business and tithing has been institutionalized very wrongly and legalistically. I love to give to God and understand that 10% is no longer my ceiling. I also understand that my church is not the sole place I’m required to give. In fact, I’m not required at all but because of the love relationship I have with Jesus the Christ, I want, will and do give. It is so vitally important that we study the COMPLETE word of God.

  2. That’s right Rob! Welcome back before I get to excited.

    I love the fact that you plan to keep the discussion going. We have to keep driving people to the word of God. Just because you saw it on tv doesn’t make it true, even if the person was behind a pulpit.

    Yes! Exactly, 10% can’t be a measure for us because this is relational.

    It’s all about relationship!

    Remember the rich young ruler that Jesus spoke to. Ever wonder why, Jesus didn’t say go pay your tithe and then you’ll be in my kingdom? Instead, he said go sell ALL you have and give it to the poor. The point is, we have to be willing to give God whatever He asks of us, whenever He makes the request.

    Atehyabull! LOL

  3. Throughout this post, I see a common thread — charity. Those who were under the Old Testament law serving as Levites had to depend upon the charity of others. Those who are widowed and fatherless among us should be able to benefit from the charity of others. Those who seek to live extravagant lives at the expense of God’s people do not fall under these categories. They simply do not have the same need.

    Of course I had to read Deuteronomy 14 for myself. Several things really struck me. First the tithe was set aside for the year. What a celebration that had to be! This sounds to me like it’s better than Christmas. And it actually puts a new spin on Christmas for me. What if we took that opportunity — or Easter Sunday — to celebrate the new covenant by celebrating with a tenth of our increase for the entire year? This would be great press for Jesus! Others would have to wonder what the occasion is, and what an opportunity to tell them about the new covenant we now enjoy.

    Second, it refers several times that we should celebrate in “the place where the Lord will choose to put His name.” In other words, it seems to me that it’s not just one static place. God would lead to that place He had chosen. This reminds me of John 4, where the woman is told that worship is not bound to this temple or that mountain, but in spirit and in truth.

    Third, God reminds them not to neglect the Levites. Obviously, the Levites were not the primary beneficiaries then.

    Finally, every three years, that year’s tithe was to be brought to the community so that the Levites, aliens, fatherless and widows could partake in the celebration. Those who lacked an inheritance needed to have the opportunity to observe in the feast also, and not just on the sidelines. They were to “eat and be satisfied.” This is bursting with community! God is saying to ensure that everyone with a need in your own town is taken care of during that third year. And what a wonderful way to take the focus off ourselves! I love this.

    I’ll stop there. I could go on and on. Oh, and I don’t see any manipulation in this passage either. This is definitely freedom!

  4. This is definitely freedom!
    This is definitely community!
    This is definitely giving with no strings attached, not because we think we have found the new get rich quick scheme.

    Just responded that easter would not be the same and yes Christmas either. It put the purpose and importance back in celebrating our covenant in a way that our children enjoy and will remember.

    You should keep going, on and on. I love it!

    Well stated and beautiful observations.


  5. If I set aside my tithe for the year, and let it accrue interest like a wise steward would in this economy, I can only imagine the celebration I could host in the name of my Lord. First, it would involve massive amounts of food. Second, it would have to be in a place that most people in my community could access. For instance, I would do it at our local Town Center or one of our large parks. Third, it would have to involve all age groups. Fourth, it would have to be artistic. Remember in one of the books of the Pentateuch, God was instructing the people to have those skilled in weaving to weave this curtain for the temple and those skilled in woodworking to carve that thing or other for the temple? Somehow, people’s gifts would have to have an outlet at my celebration. And last but not least, it would have to include a public declaration of its purpose — to remember the God of our covenant.

    My mind is racing.

  6. Pingback: A years worth of conversation « SCREAM

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