Malachi 3:8 – 10 –
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.[j1]
This passage is directed to ancient Israel when they were under the Mosaic Law. Gods people were holding back on the tithes and offerings, similar to holding back taxes. So they were stealing from God who instituted the tithing system. In verse 5 God says he will judge those who oppress the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. These were the rightful recipients of the tithe. In this passage God opposes the oppression of the poor.
Tithing was essentially Israel’s income tax and never do you find first century Christians tithing in the new testament.
God instituted three kinds of tithe i.e
- A tithe of the produce of the land to support the Levites who had no inheritance in the land (Leviticus 27:30 – 33)
- A tithe of the produce of the land to sponsor religious festivals in Jerusalem. If the produce was too burdensome for a family to carry to Jerusalem, they could convert it to money, sometimes called the festival tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22 – 27)
- A tithe of the produce of the land collected every third year for the local Levites, orphans, strangers and widows (Deuteronomy 14:28 – 29, 26:12 – 13)
The word TITHE simply means the TENTH PART , Hebrew word MAASER simply meaning tenth part.
So in essence God commanded the Israelites to give 23.3% of their income every year and not 10%. (20% yearly and 10% every three years comes to 23.3 % every year. God commanded all the three tithes – Nehemiah 12:44, Malachi 3:8 – 42, Hebrews 7:5)
So there is a parallel between the modern taxation system and Israel’s tithing system. Israel was obligated to support their national workers (Priests), Their holidays (festivals), their poor (Strangers, widows and orphans) with their annual tithes.
According to Colossians 2:13 – 14, 16 – 17, and Hebrews 6 – 10, we see that tithing belonged exclusively to Israel under the law. When it comes to financial stewardship, the first century Christians gave cheerfully according to their ability, not dutifully out of a command (2 Corinthians 8:3 – 12, 9:5 – 13)
In the 3rd Century, Cyprian of Carthage was the first Christian writer to mention the practice of financially supporting the clergy just as the Levites were supported by the tithe. But this is misguided thinking because the Levitical system has been abolished. We are all priests now so if a priest demands tithe, then all Christians should tithe to one another.
In the 7th and 8th Centuries leasing of land was a familiar characteristic in the European Economy and the use of the tithe or the tenth, was commonly used to calculate payments to landlords. As the church increased in it’s ownership of land across Europe, the 10% rent charge shifted from secular landlords to the church. Ecclesiastical leaders became the landlords and the tithe became ecclesiastical tax. This gave the 10% charge a new meaning and was creatively applied to the old testament Law and came to be identified with the Levitical tithe. So consequently the Christian tithe as an institution was based on a fusion of Old testament practice and a common system of land leasing in medieval-Europe.
I ask you to research keenly and see what I am trying to put across here and ask God to open your eyes and see what we are supposed to do. I ask for you to feel free to add comments objections and thoughts towards this insight.