Where's MY Cut?
Everything that we have, it was God's first; "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." (Gen. 1:1) Cut and dried, no margin for misinterpretation, this is straightforward. Everything we have is because He made it. Even us, we are made by Him, and our parents are the catalyst for our conception, how we were brought into the world, but in our mother's' wombs we were formed by Him.
The first use of the word "tithes" was in reference of Abram's respect to God; "And he blessed him, and said, 'Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all" (Gen. 14:19 - 20)
The first use of the word "tenth" in reference to repaying God for His kindness of all we have is accredited to Jacob; "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee." (Gen. 28:20 - 22) Tithing was common among Semitic peoples of that time as a sign of respect to the superior. As God is superior to all His creation, it is right to give tithes unto the Lord.
The Lord gave laws concerning tithing through Moses in Leviticus. "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed." (Lev. 27:30 - 33) Here note that tithes were taken of the produce of the land and of beasts, of vegetation and animal maintained by mankind.
So who received this tithe? Did it just get left somewhere to rot? Not at all! In Moses' day, it was given to the Levites; "Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest." (Num. 18:26 - 28)
Now in those days, God had more than one approved purpose for the disposition of a tithe to the Lord; "And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which Thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, 'I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Thy commandments which Thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed Thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:" (Deut. 26:10 - 13) So a tithe could be dispersed among the poor, widows, orphans, and Levites all.
Also in those days, you ate your tithe, but you didn't forget to include the Levite in your tithing, either! "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth." (Deut. 12:17 - 19)
More instruction about tithing is in Deut. 14:22 - 29; "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set His name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, and the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." This is a rare instance, because it is a place where the consumption of strong drink is condoned. Later in Scripture, it will not be found so. This is the first place where your tithe is allowed to be turned into money, but only because of distance. Our understanding God gave His people who lived afar from the central sanctuary a means of carrying their tithe a great distance by way of sale and purchase of tithing materials. For example, they would sell a large number of bushels of corn at the local market, then go the long distance, and there buy the materials for their tithe to offer where the designated worship area was.
As the Israelites grew in number, the tithing was so great, officers were appointed by king Hezekiah at the time to take care of the disposition of it all! "Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them, and brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next. And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God." (2 Chron. 31:11 - 13)
By Nehemiah's time, tithe maintenance was only one of the duties of the Levites and priests; "And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited." (Neh. 12:44)
The last important note in the Old Testament concerning tithes I want to call attention to is the lack there of them in the last book of the Old Testament; "'Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say,' 'Wherein have we robbed Thee?' 'In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith,' saith the LORD of hosts, 'If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field', saith the LORD of hosts." (Mal. 3:8 - 11) See how you cannot keep this commandment of tithing if you do not go to church. How could your tithe get there in God's house? Keep in mind that not one but two tithes were required, one for the Lord's feast in Jerusalem and another annual tithe for Levite upkeep. The third year the Jerusalem tithe was to be given to the poor.
Okay, enter Jesus on the scene; the hypocritical Pharisees tithe, but do not attend to the other commandments they should know better about; "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matt. 23:23) This is one of the 8 woes Jesus uttered against the Pharisees. Luke 11:42 is worded similarly of this event.
The last reference to tithing is made by Paul concerning Melchisedec and Abraham; "And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him." (Heb. 7:5 - 10)
And so we who believe in God, in Christ Jesus; we pay tithes, believing in the blessing from out of the window of heaven, paying to our superior God in heaven His due respect, our almighty God from whom all blessings flow!