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Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Tithes: What Do They Mean?

Every year you shall set aside the tithes of all your fruits that the earth brings forth, And you shall eat before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose, that his name may be called upon therein, the tithe of your corn, and your wine, and your oil, and the firstborn of your herds and your sheep: that you may learn to fear the Lord your God at all times.
Deuteronomy 13:22-23
Tithing has been mentioned even in Genesis when Abraham gave the priest Melchizedek one tenth of all his possession. When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, he did not tell them to stop giving tithes. He told them to practice justice and love of God without neglecting tithes.
Why give tithes? As the passage in Deuteronomy says, “that you may learn to fear the Lord your God at all times”. When we tithe, we tell the Lord that we are offering back to him what he has given us. It is a sacrifice to him.
Sacrifice here means an offering to the Lord. By tithing, we tell the Lord that he is the source of everything we have and by giving part of it back to him, we also tell him that we trust that he will provide for all our needs. We also tell him that he has given us at least 10 percent more than what we need.
Where do we give our tithes? The Old Testament tells us that tithes are to be slain in the temple and eaten in the temple in the presence of the Lord at the place he will choose. What this means is that giving tithes is a celebration. We celebrate God's abundant gift to us. Some pastors recommend that entire tithes should go to support the church.
If you look at churches in North America, you will see that they are in desperate need of financial support. Some congregations had to merge and share one church to save money. If such is the case, maybe the entire tithe should support the church.
But if the church is blessed with an abundance of money, I think tithes can be used for other purposes. One thing that comes to mind is what the Lord has repeatedly said in the Old Testament: look after orphans, widows and foreigner in the land.
However, before we try to find the fortunate orphan, widow or foreigner, we should look within our own family. I am not thinking of our immediate family (children and spouses). If we give tithes to others and our parents are starving, there is something wrong. The Lord who commands us to tithe also commands us to honor our parents. We should look for other people to help only after we have looked after our parents.
Being expatriates, our tithes can be used to help the poor in our host countries. We can also offer our tithes to our countrymen who are in need of financial help. But whatever and wherever we discern to use it, the tithe is the Lord's and it should be used according to his will. It should not be used personally, not even for our children or spouses. Because tithes are to be used for others.
Financial tithes are just part of the story. We also have to tithe our time and talent. Giving time for the Lord each day is a form of tithing our time. Giving time to serve others is also a form of tithing. Tithing is a serious matter and is needed for our growth.
Shall a man afflict God? For you afflict me. And you have said, “Wherein do we afflict you?” “In tithes and in firstfruits. And you are cursed with want, and you afflict me, even the whole nation of you. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and try me in this”, says the Lord, “if I open not to you the floodgates of heaven, and pour you out a blessing even to abundance.”
Malachi 3:8-10

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