Read for This Week’s Study: Mark 16:15; 1 Pet. 3:8, 9; 1 Cor. 9:14; Rom. 3:19–24.
Memory Text: “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14, NKJV).
Last week’s lesson talked about honesty and faithfulness, then used the idea of tithing to illustrate faithfulness. This week’s lesson picks up the tithing idea and develops it further.
The first biblical record of someone paying tithe is found in the story of Abraham. Genesis 14:18-20 describes how he met with the King of Salem and gave him one tenth of all he had.
After the nation of Israel was founded, there was more precise instruction about tithe, particularly about what it was to be used for. One of the most descriptive verses is Numbers 18:26 – “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.” This verse indicates that there was a design behind tithing, that it was to be used for funding the operation of the religions life of Israel, and to support those who were what might be called, the religious professionals.
- What do you think the effects of a collaborative and systematic process were?
- How does this compare with what you think would occur if everyone did as they pleased or saw fit individually?
The biblical record is clear that there were plenty of ups-and-downs in the experience of ancient Israel. This was the case with general affairs, but it was also the case with their loyalty to the idea of paying tithe and being otherwise generous with God. Notice the verse Nehemiah 10:39 – “39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.” (ESV)
- This verse is a window on struggle. During the reforms of Nehemiah, it seems renewed efforts were made to encourage people not to neglect the house of God. This comment was made at a time when people were building lavish places for themselves but the building or the temple languished as did the priesthood.
The struggle to remember the house of God along the way gave rise to a very interesting passage about tithing that is found in Malachi 3:9, 10 – “9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer[a] for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.” (ESV)
- What do you make of the mention of being cursed?
- What do you think the phrase “the full tithe” means?
- Do you think that these verses indicate that if people pay a “full tithe,” they can be guaranteed blessing and success?
- The storehouse in ancient times was the Temple. Is there a current equivalent place?
In New Testament times, the principle of tithing is found again. Indications are present that it was used to pay those who were busy propagating the gospel message. In I Corinthians Paul makes a rather straight-forward comment to this effect, drawing a connection between the OT practice and what was to be done in NT times:
1 Corinthians 9:13-14 – “13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (ESV)
Paul makes a similar comment to the young gospel worker Timothy when he enunciates the principle taken from the Old Testament, “18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (ESV)
We are left with some interesting things to contemplate here:
- Have you ever thought that paying tithe results in a double blessing? Those who pay tithe are promised a blessing, and those who receive the tithe also receive a blessing in that they can give their full time and attention to gospel work.
- Do you think individuals are at liberty to pay tithe to what ever cause they desire, or is there a call to be more collaborative?
- Where is the “storehouse” today?
- If we hold that there is a mandate to pay a faithful tithe, is there also a mandate that rests on those who decide how to spend the money tithe brings in?
- What would the Christian world look like if everyone paid tithe faithfully?