I haven’t written anything in about 2 years now and had resolved not to write about the tithe again but a chance encounter made me go back on that.
I have come to realise that I did not have a full understanding of the tithe and my posts did not paint the full picture. Howbeit, I now have a much better understanding.
I had often heard it mentioned that there were 3 tithes required form the Old Testament Jew but I just couldn’t follow the trail in the bible. And I must admit the bible did seem to change the remit of the tithe whenever it was mentioned. But after a careful study, I now know that what I termed as different remits were actually different tithes which had different scopes.
There were 3 different tithes required from the children of Israel; the first, the second and the third tithes.
The first tithe was to be given to the Levites by the remaining 11 tribes after a heave offering had been offered. This was their means of sustenance because they were barred from doing any form of secular work. They in turn gave a tenth of what they received from the other 11 tribes to the priests. This appeared to be practised every year for 6 years within the seven year agricultural cycle (Numbers 18:21-30, Leviticus 27:30-33).
The Second tithe was collected on the first, second, fourth and fifth year of every 7 year agricultural cycle (Deuteronomy 12:11-18, 14:22-29, 26:12). This tithe was usually taken to be consumed at Jerusalem. Those who lived faraway and could not conveniently bring the agricultural produce where allowed to convert it into money. And the only caveat with this was they had to add 25% of its monetary value. They were encouraged to spend the money on anything they liked including wine and strong drink.
The third tithe or poor tithe was collected every 3 years. So in effect it was collected on the third and sixth year of every 7 year agricultural cycle (Deuteronomy 14:28, 26:12).
The seventh year was classed as the year of the Sabbath and no agricultural activity was allowed during this year. No tithes were paid either and people were free to eat everything that grew out of the ground by itself.
Ironically, those who preach and practise the tithe today do not do anything that closely resembles this. Which begs the question, ‘where did they get it from?’ They cannot claim they follow Abraham’s example because his was completely voluntary and was not required as part of God’s covenant with him. It couldn’t have made him wealthy because he was already wealthy. It wasn’t the reason God blessed him because we understand from scripture that God’s covenant with Abraham had nothing to do with him.
The book of Malachi speaks of tithe in the plural and this refers to the 3 different tithes required from the children of Israel. This clearly belonged to the law and is definitely not binding on the New Testament church.
The tithe was not solitary but was part and parcel of the Old Testament law. It had to be practised in conjunction with all the other laws for it to be accepted. Trying to impose tithing today revives the law and brings condemnation. And one then tends to repeat the same mistake of the Galatian church, starting off in the spirit and then trying to achieve perfection by observing part of the law.