Tithes - What They Mean

"Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce every year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine or 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." (Dt 14:22-23)

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, "so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always." Tithing is a way of us telling 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 are also telling him that we trust that he will provide for all our needs. We are also telling 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. Before we left Victoria one of the protestant churches has to be sold and converted to a music school. Some of the 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 comes to mind is what the Lord has repeatedly said in the Old testament-look after orphans, widows and aliens in the land.

However, before we try to find the fortunate orphan, widow or alien, I think 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. For the Lord who commands us to tithe also commands us to honor our parents. Only when our parents are looked after, should we look for other people to assist.

One thing comes to my mind. Being expatriates, our tithes can be used to help the poor in Indonesia. We can also offer our tithes to our countrymen here 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. Right now, the Lord is saying,

Your are robbing me in tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-the whole nation of you. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there maybe food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing hat you will not have room enough for it." (Malachi 3:8-10)

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