We believe in tithing as a way of honoring God with our substance and as a means of serving Him in the preaching of the gospel, the care of the Church, attending the festivals and helping the needy (Proverbs 3:9-10; Genesis 14:17-20; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
To "tithe" (meaning in both Hebrew and Greek "to give or take the tenth of") means to give a tenth of "all the increase" (Deuteronomy 14:22) derived from one's produce, property, or income, for the support of a religious purpose. The motivation to tithe is a worshipful recognition of God as the Creator and Possessor of the earth and everything in it, including ourselves.
Although tithing became a codified, or written, law under the covenant God made with Israel, it was historically practiced among those who were faithful to God before that covenant. Abraham, after his defeat of the four kings, tithed on the spoils of the war to Melchizedek, priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-22). Abraham obviously understood giving a tenth as the appropriate way to honor God with one's physical possessions. It is also noteworthy that Abraham gave the tenth to Melchizedek, a representative of the Creator God.
Abraham recognized the underlying premise for giving a tithe to God: He is the actual "Possessor of heaven and earth" who made his victory, and all blessings, possible. God reminds us throughout the Bible, and people of God respectfully acknowledge, that everything belongs to God (Exodus 19:5; Job 41:11; Psalm 24:1; 50:12; Haggai 2:8). "And you shall remember the Lord your God," Moses told Israel, "for it is He who gives you power to get wealth . . ." (Deuteronomy 8:18). Tithing is thus, first and foremost, an act of worshipful recognition of God as our source of existence, blessing and providence.
Jacob also followed the example of his grandfather Abraham. When God reconfirmed to him the promises He had made to Abraham, Jacob promised God, "Of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth [tithe] to You" (Genesis 28:20-22).
The practice of tithing was later incorporated into the covenant with Israel as a written law. The tribe of Levi, which was not given an inheritance of land from which Levites could derive increase (Numbers 18:23), was to receive the tithe of the agricultural produce in return for their ecclesiastical service to the nation. The Levites, based on what they had received in tithes from the people, in turn tithed to the priestly family of Aaron (verses 18:26-28).
As time passed, the tithe was carelessly neglected in postexilic Judah, for which God corrected the nation in the strongest of terms (Malachi 3:8-10). Failure to tithe, God said, was tantamount to robbing Him, and the people were consequently cursed. Yet He also promised that renewed obedience in tithing would result in blessings from Him so abundant that "there [would] not be room enough to receive it."
Some centuries later, Jesus Himself clearly upheld the practice of tithing. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23).
Rather than seizing a golden opportunity to abrogate the practice of tithing, Christ plainly confirmed His will that tithing should indeed be practiced, along with sincere adherence to other "weightier [spiritual] matters" they were obviously neglecting.
As tithes and offerings in Israel were given to the tribe of Levi for their livelihood and service to God, the Church in the New Testament provided financial support for the ministry to carry on their work. Instances of, and principles relating to, this practice are found in Luke 10:1, 7-8; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9; Philippians 4:14-18 and Hebrews 7.
From Deuteronomy 14, we can identify two other purposes for tithing—attending God's festivals (Leviticus 23; Deuteronomy14:22-27) and caring for the poor and needy (verses 28-29). Since we believe in observing God's festivals and we believe in taking care of the poor and needy, we acknowledge the continuity of this practice.
Today the United Church of God continues the teaching that tithing is a universal law and that one's willing obedience to this law reflects the unselfish, giving nature of our Creator and Provider.
Concerning administration of this law, it is the duty of the Church to teach people to tithe, but it is the responsibility of the individual to obey. Tithing is a personal matter of faith between the individual and his Creator. We teach that anyone devoted to following God should obey Him in this fundamental way, but it is not appointed to the Church to enforce and regulate tithe-paying. Because of the economic complexities in today's societies, the Church regularly receives many technical questions about tithing, and we seek to render wise administrative guidelines according to God's will and direction.
Through tithing that springs from willing and cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8), we both honor God and support the physical means for doing His work: preaching the gospel to the world and making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). He has provided the perfect financial system, which takes care of the needs of His work, the personal need to attend His festivals, and the need to care for the poor.
(For more details, request What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing?)
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