iii) Separate as Tithe
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.”—Leviticus 27:30.
“If we do less under the grace than they did under the law, it is a disgrace.”—Anonymous.
Tithe Belongs to God
Let us start on the right note: You don’t pay tithe, you separate it. There is a significant difference between paying and separating. The difference influences both the attitude and the practice of tithing. To claim to pay tithe implies either that we are ‘buying’ something, or that we borrowed and now we are paying back. Both are wrong! The Bible says that tithe belongs to God, so when we give our tithe, we are not paying for anything neither are we refunding something we borrowed. A good steward knows how to separate things that are at his disposal. Anything that belongs to God is consecrated and must be treated as such.
When we have our things mixed up with other people’s, what we do is not called paying them what is theirs, rather we separate what is not ours and let the owner have his things.
Setting aside tithe calls for integrity and self-discipline because nobody may follow you up to ask you to separate your tithe.
There is an on-going debate in some sections of Christendom that tithing was done away with in the new dispensation. That tithing belongs to the Law and not to the Grace. It is important to note that when the law is taken in its generic form, misconceptions arise and they abound. There are different categories of the law. There are some aspects of the law that the grace rendered obsolete; there are others that needed perfection, and there were also new law that was introduced by the grace. (1)
The Lord Jesus himself said that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but came to fulfil the law (Matt. 5:17).Not every aspect of the law was done away with. The Bible says that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Ps. 19:7). The grace cannot do away with something that is perfect, not to mention something that converts the soul. There is a law of the Lord that converts the soul from materialism to the worship of God.
The grace did not come to dispossess God of His possessions, rather it gave Him more claim over that which belongs to Him. This is why instead of offering material things only, the Bible tells us to offer ourselves as well (our bodies)—as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). The churches of Marcedonia understood this (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
Consider what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 11:42. “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Did He by any means abolish tithing in the above scripture? This was a perfect opportunity for the Lord to put it in black and white that there is no place for tithe. Don’t leave it undone, but remember that it is not the only thing that matters here.
The Law of the First Appearance
The law of ‘first appearance’ allows theologians to contextualise a concept to find out the justification for its inspiration and function and its application in other contexts.
Though some believers cause confusion, albeit unintendedly, about tithe because they claim it is outdated by grace, I found out that tithing would still stand even if the law collapsed. The reason is that tithing, just like offering, was not a creation of a constitution. It was instead a creation of an inspiration and intuition. Abraham tithed without any divine commandment directing him to do so.
“And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”—Genesis 28:22.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer records about the mysterious king and priest called Melchisedec to whom Abraham tithed. Mysterious because the Bible says he had no father or mother or descendants. He neither had beginning of days nor end of life. Sounds almost angelic to me.
“For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”—Hebrews 7:1-3.
Tithing was there before the law; it was there during the law and I don’t see why it cannot be there after the law. When it was incorporated into the law, it was to document, endorse and structure it. This was necessary because the society was getting more complex and needed a constitution—all important matters of life, including pious obligations, had to be enshrined in a constitution.
It is important to remember that whatever the grace annulled in the law, tithe was not part of it. As we had seen above, tithe belongs to God so that even at the beginning, the first reason it was required was not because it was a command but because it was not ours. It was not therefore the law that made Old Testament insist that tithe be given to God. The dispensation of the grace did not disposes God of what belongs to Him but added clarity that we actually belong to Him—the whole of us. That is why the people who first gave themselves unto God (through His servants) are commended. That is why even though they were poor they gave beyond expectation (2 Cor. 8:1-5).