About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Other Things Existed Before The Law Too


As I said earlier, some tithe teachers suggest that tithing should be practiced today because it existed before the Law. They admit that Jesus put an end to the Law, but since tithing existed before the Law He didnít put an end to tithing.  Thereís no logic in this thinking.  Circumcision existed before the Law and we donít circumcise our baby boys for the purpose of salvation today.  Animal sacrifices existed before the Law too and Iíve yet to see a baby lamb killed in a Sunday morning meeting.  So why do we practice tithing and neglect circumcision and animal sacrifices when they all existed before the Law?


Many practices that existed before the Law were incorporated into the Law.  The argument that tithing should be practiced today because it existed before the Law isnít relevant.  It became part of the Law and once incorporated into the Law had the same fate as the Law. Iíll talk about this later.


Do Christians Understand The Law Of Moses?


Iím wondering how many of us love reading Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy?  These books, along with Genesis are known as the Pentateuch.  Do we read these books, or do we skip over them because theyíre too confusing?  If by chance we do read them, do we understand them, especially what they say about tithing?  Very few Christians actually read these books and fewer understand their content, and that includes what is written about tithing.


The Law of Moses is complicated. Thatís partly why the Jewish teachers of old spent so much time and energy interpreting it.  They wrote lengthy commentaries of explanation. They developed a long list of laws that in part would systematically lay out what the Law of Moses demanded.  All of these writings to help people understand and implement the Law out-number the Law itself in volume and complicated things more than ever.     


I havenít personally counted but Iíve heard there are at least 613 laws in the Law of Moses. Beyond that thereís the blessings and curses. Thereís the application of the laws, what to do when a law is broken or canít be obeyed, and much more. 


People who understand these things best are Jews, or perhaps some Christians with a Jewish heritage.  So hereís my point.    How can the average Christian today really hold to the Old Testament view of  tithing when he ignores 98% of the Old Testamentís teaching on tithing?  You canít teach tithing based on Malachi 3:8 and a couple of other verses and neglect the bulk of the Scriptures found in the Law of  Moses. But thatís what most of us do.  If you teach tithing, youíve got to include what the Law says about tithing and youíll be hard pressed to implement its teaching today.   


Three Tithes


Iím not an expert when it comes to the Law of Moses.  I know of very few people who are, so what I say in this section is extremely simplified.      


Many Christians think that God demanded 10% from the Jews in the Old Testament, but thatís not so.  They were in fact told to give three different tithes.  There was a tithe to support the Levites (Num. 18:20-32), a tithe for celebrations held in the presence of God (Duet. 14:22-27), and a tithe for the Levites, widows, fatherless and foreigners who lived among Israel . (Duet. 14:28-29)  This last tithe was collected once every three years.  So the yearly percentage that one would tithe is 23.3%, not 10% as you might have thought.


I derive 23.3 % this way.  The first two tithes total 20 %, ( 2 times 10%).  The last tithe was collected once every  three  years, so the yearly rate was 3.3 %.  Thus the total is 23.3%. (20% plus 3.3%)


So if you really want to live under the Old Testament Law, then you should start thinking in terms of 23.3%, not 10%. This fact alone might cause some people to change their minds on this subject.  I just mention this to let you know that the 10% figure that we use today isnít all that accurate from a Scriptural stand-point. 


Where Did The Tithe Go?


You might want to take note where these tithes went.  One tithe went to the priests. The other was eaten by the tithers in a celebration before the Lord.  The third went to the poor and less privileged.  If you want to follow the Old Testament pattern, you might want to question where the bulk of your tithe goes once it leaves your wallet. 


Hereís something interesting about the celebration tithe.  One would take his tithe to the presence of the Lord to eat in a festive meal with others.  If your tithe was too large and if you had a long way to travel with it, you could sell your tithe.  Yes, you could sell your tithe.  In Deut. 14:26 we see what the tither could do with the proceeds of this sale.  It says, ďuse the silver to buy whatever you like; cattle, sheep, wine, or other fermented drink,  or anything you wish.  Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoiceĒ.  The Law made provision for you to sell your  tithe if it was too hard to take to the feast.  From the proceeds you could buy anything you wished, including ďwine or any other fermented drinkĒ to help you celebrate.  Now thatís ďveryĒ interesting.  I wonder if the wine or fermented drinks helped the tithers rejoice. 


With this in mind, I also wonder if one might want to spend his tithe at the local liquor store.  He could bring a bottle of wine or some other alcoholic drink to the church meeting instead of money. Can you imagine what the pre-service coffee hour might look like if we all did this?  It might actually put some of us in more of a rejoicing mood.  Of course this isnít something Iíd recommend.   


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