I was on a show recently to discuss tithes & firstfruits as a topic. The questions and comments from callers and online followers opened a growing concern that the church has ignored or turned deaf ears to: People are angry about how the church is handling the topic of money and materialism.
Evidently, the question of money, especially tithes and firstfruits, is very sensitive yet it is the most abused, misinterpreted and misconstrued topic today. A very good friend and sister, in a phone session, called it “a very inflammatory topic” amid Christians.
The first explicit references to tithe appeared in the book of Genesis 14:20, where Abram (Abraham) gave tithes to Melchizedek, and in Genesis chapter 28 verse 22 where Jacob promised to give God “a full tenth” of his blessings. However most people, today only know of Malachi 3:10, a verse that has become a tool for super spiritual manipulation and intimidation from the pulpit.
I will attempt to answer some questions raised on tithe and firstfruits with scriptural backup.
What is tithe?
The tithe is a requirement of the Law in which the Israelites were to give 10 percent of the crops they grew and the livestock they raised to the tabernacle/temple. The biblical definition of a tithe is giving 10 percent of one’s increase from crops grown in the land of Israel or cattle that feed off the land of Israel. In Leviticus chapter 27 from verse 30 to 33 we see that plants and fruits, given as tithes, can be redeemed with money. But the Animals cannot be redeemed: “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 to the Lord. 31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. 33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” NKJV
Was tithe mentioned in the New Testament & Should we pay tithe as Christians and people under the new covenant?
In Matthew 23 verse 23 Jesus Christ rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things”. NLT. So Yes we should pay tithe because Jesus said it is okay. However we should attention core things of the faith.
Why do we, today, pay tithe using money instead of bringing plants and fruits as it was in the Bible?
We pay tithe in money today because the bible allows, in Leviticus chapter 27 verse 31, for one to bring money if you prefer it above plants or fruits. Also, most people earn money and don’t live in the old agrarian system. Most of us don’t have grain and produce to bring to the storehouse, but we do have currency incomes that we can bring the first tenth of into the church. That is not to say it is wrong to pay tithe in fruits, plants and animals if you can.
Was 10% mentioned in the New Testament?
There is no mention of 10 percentage in the New Testament or new covenant. The Christian church inherited the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe system and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving.
Should I tithe on Gross or Net
Many posit that tithe should be paid on Gross income since the biblical record is that the people paid tithe from “all their plant, fruits and animals”. In scripture, the tithe was actually higher than ten percent because of the “third year tithe” mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:28-29. The 10% was adopted and there is nowhere in the New Testament where it pegs tithe to be on Gross or Net. You can pay on Gross or Net provided you obey the New Testament exposition on giving which says “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7.
Can I use or give my tithe to or for charity?
In Leviticus chapter 27 verse 30 the Bible mentions that “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s.” “Malachi 3:10 also commands that we “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (What we know as church today). So, the Tithe should go to your local church where you worship, serve or are served while charitable gifts (benevolence) can be additional offering given to charity as you wish.
What is Firstfruits?
Firstfruits was a Jewish feast held in the early spring at the beginning of the grain harvest. It was observed on Nissan 16, which was the third day after Passover and the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Firstfruits was a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision.
Should I Pay Firstfruits or Not? Will God Punish Me if I don’t pay it?
Leviticus 23:9-14 instituted the first fruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Not being under the Old Testament Law, the Christian is not under compulsion to pay first fruits. The commandment and obligation is that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”
Be that as it may, many believe in Proverbs chapter 3 verse 9 which reads “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase”. It is okay to pay if you believe in it and feel God has blessed you enough to give.
With the foregoing in mind, it is imperative to make up your mind when giving, avoid reluctant or compulsive giving because God loves a cheerful giver not a tearful giver.