From the early days of the Old Testament, God’s people observed the practice of giving some portion of the best of what they had to God. In the beginning, the practice was to burn these offerings completely, saving no portion of the offering for food for themselves or others. This was a way of saying, “God, I give this to you, and it’s all yours.” In later times, the people would bring their offerings to the priests and offer them to God for the work of the temple and the priesthood.
A gift offered to God was called the first fruits or the tithe, and it equaled one-tenth of one’s flocks or crops or income. Abraham was the first to give a tithe or tenth. After victory in battle, Abraham took ten percent of the spoils of war and gave them to the priest-king Melchizedek for God’s glory (Genesis 14:17-24). Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, whose name also was Israel, made a covenant with God that included giving one-tenth of all he had to God.
In the time of Moses, the tithe was codified in the law. God claimed one-tenth of the best the people had. Before giving to the poor and taking care of themselves, they were to bring one-tenth of their first fruits to God.
Leviticus 27:30 says, “All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord.” Whether it was produce of the ground of the offspring of the flocks, the first tenth was holy to the Lord.
As Christians who live under the new covenant, we know that we are not bound by the law of Moses. Rather, we look to it as a guide. What, then, does God expect of us today regarding the tithe? Most Christians agree that the tithe is still a good guideline for our lives, and one that is pleasing to God.
(I’ll explore the idea of tithing further in my next post.)
(adapted from Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity)
photo credit: MorgueFile