And he gave him a tithe of all.
This is the first time that the word tithe is used in the Bible. The Hebrew word for tithe is ma’aser, which simply means “a tenth part” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon). So, to tithe is to give a tenth (or 10 percent). In ancient Israel’s agrarian society, tithing was based on agricultural increase (Deuteronomy 14:22). Today, since economic exchange is primarily accomplished through money, tithing is practiced by giving one-tenth of one’s monetary income.
This practice was later codified as a law in Leviticus 27:30 and Numbers 18:21. This was the system God put in place to finance His work on earth. In the Old Testament, that work was the religious and sacrificial duties the Levitical priests performed for the nation of Israel.
Notice that in Leviticus 27:30 the tithe is referred to as “the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD.” “Holy” means set aside for sacred use, and so the tithe actually belongs to God. He has ownership of all tithes.
But the Bible reveals that tithing is much more than just a “flat tax” to fund the religious functions of an ancient nation. The book of Malachi reveals that tithing is a much deeper spiritual principle and is a part of a person’s relationship with and responsibility toward God.
God told the people of Malachi’s day that they had robbed Him, and their reply was: “In what way have we robbed You?” God answered that they had robbed Him in tithes and offerings. “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, … if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10, emphasis added).
Tithing is a means of worshipping the true God. To not tithe of one’s income is equated with stealing from God. God promises to bless a person for faithfully tithing.
Tithing was reinforced by Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:23 as something a Christian “ought” to do. Today, God’s work is not done through Levitical priests, but instead by the ministers of Jesus Christ. The work of God is to be funded by tithing (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
Tithing is a law of God and illustrates one of the ways that God expects His people to be living a life based on the principle of give (2 Corinthians 9:7).
To learn more about the law of tithing, read our article “Tithing: What Is It?”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “God’s Seemingly Impossible Promise.”