Tithing and Biblical Giving-Part 1

What people teach about tithing is a problem. Christianity has changed over 1700 years and things have come into the “faith” which have been passed down from generation to generation. After so long, these things have just come to be accepted. What we are going to do in this teaching is put things back in their right perspective and bring out what tithing and biblical giving really was and “is” and to strip it from what people think it is. This is going to be a very detailed teaching with a lot of information in many parts, but in order to get the truth out about this subject we need to take a good look at it. First of all, we are not against giving ten percent to the Lord, nor are we against biblical giving because we are called to do it, as we can see from Paul’s example in Acts 24.17. But we need to separate fact from fiction. The “offerings” mentioned there are the “korbanot” or animal sacrifices. Notice Paul is doing animal sacrifices 30 years after Yeshua ascended to heaven. Alms is a part of giving and the people were taught to do it. It was meant to help the needy and the handicapped. The needy were to go to certain places to receive alms, like the Temple or to synagogues. If they didn’t, they were seen as prideful. People were ready and willing to give and wanted to help. The synagogue had a “roll” of dependents they took care of (1 Tim 5.9; Acts 5.1). A synagogue official called the Gabbai Tzedekah (collector of the charity) would make sure who was eligible, like if a widow had no children to take care of her and she was too old to work. Also, orphans would be put on the list, that sort of thing. But we are going to teach the truth about it and it may step on someone’s toes, but we don’t mean to do it. We once taught the general principles concerning tithing to a pastor of a Baptist church. He said he knew what we were saying was true, but his congregation would stop giving so he kept right on teaching what wasn’t true about tithing. We are not going to hold back anything concerning this subject and we are only interested in getting the truth out there for people to investigate and learn from. On their giving, there were certain responsibilities that they were not to ignore in order to give to the Lord. First, if a man had an income and a needy parent, you helped your parents first and that was seen as giving to God. This included any family member. Second, he was not to give his money to the Temple or synagogue and let his parents do without (Mark 7.9-13). It is the same with the sacrifices, or korbanot.
The word for tithe is “ma’aser” and it is the tenth part of anything appropriated as a tax or korban. This goes back anciently and we see Abraham doing it in Gen 14.20. Later, it became a part of the Torah (Lev 27.30-33). Tithing dealt with agriculture involving crops and animals. Offerings could be money, but that would be considered biblical giving. Supporting the synagogue is different than the Temple tax called the “hatzi shekel” or half shekel, and alms. In Num 18.21-26 the Levites were to receive the tithe. They had no inheritance or source of sustenance so God provided it to them. They then gave a tenth to the Kohanim (priests). Therefore, the Levites were the Gabbai Tzedekah (collector of the charity) of Israel. Now, Israel was divided into 24 districts or “counties” for want of a better term. Each district had Levitical cities which had storehouses, granaries, barns, stables and pens. 24 is a special number in the Scriptures. We know that in the Mishkan there were four colors of six threads each (6×4=24)making one thread. These were woven into tapestries in the Mishkan and they represented all of Israel called “living threads.” In the Temple period, the stones of the Temple were called “living stones” and Peter uses this to illustrate the unity of the believer in 1 Pet 2.5. These threads or stones were being built into the building, so a “carpenter” became an idiom for a Rabbi who was building the congregation of Israel. The word “tikun” means to “repair” and that is what you would call an all night Bible study (Acts 20.7-12). This was a tradition that was done at the festival of Shavuot. Why? Because the Torah was given at Shavuot on Mt Sinai. So, there were 24 districts in Israel. The priests were divided into 24 courses (1 Chr 24.1-18) and each course served one week at a time, two times a year. In addition, all the priests were there for all the festivals and ministered. We also see that there are 24 thrones in the book of Revelation. The storehouses mentioned above were used to deposit food into. This provided for the Levites and the dependents of each district. The Levites distributed it and if they didn’t do it right, they answered to the Lord (Num 18.21). The book of Malachi deals with this. Now, this is a very important point. If you were not involved in agriculture and didn’t live in the land of Israel, you didn’t tithe, but you still gave offerings and alms. This was called biblical giving. Today, people are calling tithing something that it isn’t. The tithe was given to the Levites, and the ministers in a congregation are not Levites. Now, let’s look at when the tithe was given. A seven year cycle is called a shemitah. In the first year of the shemitah, the first tithe was brought to the Levitical storehouses in the 24 districts at Shavuot. The second tithe was brought to Jerusalem at Sukkot and eaten in the Temple in a massive banquet and shared with others until gone. In the second year, the first tithe was brought to the Levitical city storehouses in the 24 districts at Shavuot. The second tithe was brought to Jerusalem at Sukkot and eaten in a massive banquet in the Temple and shared with others until gone. The third year, the first tithe was taken to the Levitical storehouses in the 24 districts at Shavuot. The second tithe was also taken to the Levitical storehouses in the 24 districts at Sukkot. In the fourth year, the first tithe was taken to the Levitical city storehouses in the 24 districts at Shavuot. The second tithe was brought to Jerusalem at Sukkot and eaten in a massive banquet in the Temple until gone. In the fifth year, the first tithe was taken to the Levitical city storehouses in the 24 districts at Shavuot. The second tithe was taken to Jerusalem and eaten before the Lord in a massive banquet in the Temple until gone. In the sixth year, the first tithe was taken to the Levitical city storehouses at Shavuot. The second tithe was also taken to the Levitical city storehouses at Sukkot. In the seventh year, there was no tithing because there were no crops and the land was to rest. In Deut 24.22-29 it says that if you couldn’t bring your tithe to Jerusalem in the 1, 2, 4 and 5th year at Sukkot, you could exchange it for money and bring the money to Jerusalem where you bought food and drink for the banquet when you got there. You only tithed agricultural products and only if you lived in the land. Seven cycles of seven years was forty-nine years. The fiftieth year was called the “Yovel” which is translated as “Jubilee” but Yovel means “rams horn” and is related to Yom Kippur because that is when this starts. Isa 61.1-3 is a Yovel, or Jubilee, passage. In the time of Yeshua, the shemitah was observed but the Yovel (Jubilee) wasn’t. In 2 Chr 31.4-7 we see this schedule playing out. The first fruits mentioned there are called the “Sheva Minim” or “seven species” (see also Deut 8.8). The seven species are also brought to the Temple at Shavuot for the first six years of the shemitah. In Deut 26.12-15 you have what you would say when bringing your tithe before the Lord and the Levites. Now, as you can see this was very involved and what passes for tithing today is not even close to what the Lord prescribed. Ever heard that the local church is the storehouse and if you don’t tithe the curse of God will come upon you? That is just not true. Tithing was only done if you lived in the land and made an agricultural living. It only applied when the Temple stood and there was a functioning priesthood and Levites. What is the heart of tithing? It was taking care of the dependents. James 1.27 says that this was pure and undefiled religion. Gal 2.9-10 says that we are to remember the poor. What does God expect today? To have a good attitude about giving and to take care of the needy in your own family and community. Tithing should be non-existent today because there are no priests and Levites, no Temple and most of us do not live in the land of Israel engaged in agriculture. Do we offer sacrifices today? No, and for many of the same reasons. What would God have us give? We need to provide for our families. We should give to the needy who cannot help themselves. Congregations should de-emphasize the buildings and center on people. Tithing as we know it today was not instituted until about 800 years ago. A Catholic Cathedral needed funds for a building project, so a Bishop came up with the idea that ten percent of everyone’s income was needed. Now, what qualifies someone to receive alms. First, if you were unable to work due to health, or you could not find work. Your age might play a role and there are emergencies that come up. In Part 2, we will begin with certain factors that we deal with in giving, like stinginess and abuses in faith. We will then continue to bring out concepts relating to tithing and biblical giving, and at the same time shedding light on the Scriptures that will help you in your interpretation.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Questions, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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