Tithing is a training practice in honoring God as The Owner
October 9, 2019 | Didi Bacon
I read a sermon where John Ortberg said that money can be a tool or a drug. Money can be a tool to be used for good purposes. Money is a means of exchange. We convert the value of our work into money, so that we can exchange it for other things of value. It is a tool that we use to pay our bills, feed our family, and enjoy vacation.
Money can also be a drug. Money can make us feel things we would not otherwise feel. A temporary escape from pain or a momentary illusion of wellbeing. We crave money because we want the buzz. Ortberg points out that the biblical writers knew all about this dimension of money. The apostle Paul wrote, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." The love of money is an addiction that alters reality so that you feel as if you are a god.
In Bible language money is either a servant or it is an idol. And what scripture tells us is that God’s people are to live by the truth that He is the owner and they are His stewards. Money is a resource on loan from God, a tool to be used for His purposes. But it is a struggle to accept that. In the details of our day to day life we live as if we are the owners and God is our manager. We say, “I work hard for this money. It is mine to use as I please. It is mine to have and to hold onto so that I can have the life that I want. If God is going to be in my life, He best be at my service providing me the money I need so that I can live as I wish.” This is why Jesus talked about God and money in these terms he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
God want us to live by the truth that He is the owner and we are His managers. Money is a tool, entrusted to us, to be used for His purposes. And God has given His people a way in which they can learn to keep money in its proper place. I am talking about tithing. To tithe is to commit to give to God 10% of your gross income. The practice of tithing was first expected of the people of Israel. The Israelites were given the law through Moses in order to live by God’s Word and to follow God’s will in this life. For Israel, tithing was only one part of a very rich, fascinating, concrete, practical way of life designed to produce not mechanical obedience, but a community of great generosity.
Tithing had three applications. First the people were instructed to give 10 % of their produce in order to support the levites. The Levites were members of the tribe of Levi. This tribe was given the task of ministering to the people on behalf of God. The members of the clan of Aaron from the tribe of Levi were the ones who did the sacrificing on the altar. The High Priest was only from the descendants of Aaron. The tribe of Levi was not given any land in the Promised Land. That meant in an agriculturally based economy they did not have the means to make a living. That is why God instructed that the tithes of the people go to support the Levites. So we have God saying in Numbers, “Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’ ”
Numbers 18:24 (NIV2011)
The second aspect of the tithe was the celebrate God’s provision tithe. “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (NIV2011)
God wants His people to experience giving with joy, celebration and worship. He told them to set aside a 10th of their produce and come to Tabernacle or the Temple and have a feast. Have a celebration in the presence of God thanking him for his gifts. I just love this picture of God being with His people as they feast together celebrating the good things He has blessed them with. This is worship in giving. Notice that last line in verse 23. Celebrate God’s goodness in giving the tithe so that you might learn to revere the Lord your God. The connection of joy and thanksgiving in giving is obvious. God is the owner. His people are his managers. It is a joy to serve Him with the resources He provides.
Finally the third aspect of the tithe was the tithe was to be given so that the poor might be helped. "At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. "The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (NASB)
It's not exactly clear how the tithe was collected, what we can estimate is that the Israelites gave somewhere between 20 and 23 percent of their resources to God. This tells me, that while the “what” or “how” are important, it is the “why” that is most important when it comes to the practice of tithing. Giving 10% of your income to God is a practice that pursues a purpose. That purpose is for the people of God to learn that God is the owner and they are His managers.
Tithing is a training practice in honoring God as The Owner
The purpose is to keep our view of money in its rightful place. To make sure it remains a tool and not a drug. To be a servant in the service of God’s purposes and not an idol that robs us of the life God gives. Is money a tool or a drug for you?