Many Christians recognize and follow the Bible’s instructions regarding paying—or returning—tithe. Usually referenced from Malachi 3:10, it is a simple formula, with believers giving 10 percent of their income—or “increase”—to support the work of the church in spreading the gospel. Entrusted with these tithes, churches usually have strict guidelines about how to use these funds, primarily applying them to support direct ministry and evangelism.
Read Deuteronomy 14:22-29. In these instructions, what is the primary purpose of tithing?
The temptation is to think we have fulfilled our giving when we give that 10 percent. But the instructions given to the Israelites suggest that the 10 percent figure was a starting point. Studies suggest that an ancient Israelite living and giving according to the guidelines in the Levitical laws would regularly give between one quarter and one third of the year’s income to the work of God, to support the priests and sanctuary, and to help the poor.
Some scholars describe this giving—particularly to support the foreigners, orphans, and widows—as a second tithe. It is obvious that the people were to enjoy the results of their work and to celebrate their harvests. God promised to bless them, particularly in their new land, but they were not to take that blessing for granted or to forget those who were not so blessed.
In regular years, this portion of the harvest was to be brought to the sanctuary and shared from there. But every third year, there was to be a special focus on sharing their blessings in their own community. In these harvest celebrations, there was a special focus on those who might easily have been overlooked or forgotten: “You shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied” (Deut. 26:12, NIV).
According to God’s instructions, at least some portion of the Israelites’ giving was to be focused on providing financial and practical assistance to those who most needed it. Again, this was based on the people’s memory and appreciation of how God had been merciful and just to them.
|Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. What is the Lord saying to them? How should we apply this to our own attitude toward giving to those in need?|