What is the meaning of the Christian practice of Tithing?
Joy WendtMar 20, 2023, 12:46 AM
While I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, I understand why people do. Who hasn’t felt the grind of meagre resources and craved immediate relief?
I recall a time in my life when there was no food in our fridge. Scrounging in the cup holder of the car, I hoped for enough change to buy just a few litres of petrol. It was not a fun time. I wondered whether it was possible to ever find the financial freedom that others seemed to enjoy.
Once I daydreamed about how relief might just drop from the sky as I played a free promotional game that a department store was offering. The $250 shopping spree would be wonderful! I thought. But alas, the most I ever “won” was a $10 gift voucher. I began to doubt that the larger prizes even existed—until I actually saw one of the winners in front of me at the checkout. I fought feelings of jealousy as she purchased $250 worth of fluffy, soft towels. Free towels? Really? My child needs clothes and she gets towels?
But at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter. The lady in the store went home with brand-new towels and I still had to buy clothes for my child, who had hit a sudden growth spurt.
Anything You Want?
During those times of scraping coins and being behind on rent, it seemed that the windows of Heaven were truly closed against me. After many months of struggling, I finally asked God, Is there anything You want to show me about money that I still haven’t figured out?
The words in Malachi 3:10 pressed themselves into my mind: “ ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be 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 that you will not have room enough for it.’ ”
When I read these words, I pictured the old sluices that in days gone by were used in mining gold. The miners hoped that the process would yield nuggets of gold as the water ran down the sluice, separating the gold from the debris.
Is it possible that God could pour out such a generous stream of gold—or some kind of provision—so that I would have more than I could use?
There are people who believe that if they claim God’s promises with enough faith, they can have anything they want. Is that what this verse is saying? I decided to find out, but I had to dig a little deeper.
Along with prayer, I began to analyse Malachi 3:10 as if it were a secret map to the treasure of heaven. I took it word by word. In the King James Version, the first words say, “Bring ye.” This is a command and bring is an action word that means to carry something somewhere.
The next word is all, which is a very impressive word. If you ask someone to give you all of something, you are not asking for a piece of it. You’re asking for the whole thing. But God isn’t asking for all our money, because the next words indicate that He’s asking for a “tithe,” which is a tenth of the income we receive.
He’s asking for all of that tenth, though. God calls this tenth “holy” (Leviticus 27:30, 32). Not even the priests were exempt from this command. They were also required by God to bring a tenth of their gain to Him (Numbers 18:26).
The word “bring” also suggests that there’s a place to take the tithe. So where is that? Looking at Malachi 3:10 again we see the answer: “Bring ye all the tithes into the ” (KJV; underline added).
So the place to bring the tithe is the storehouse. But what is that? I wondered. I decided to let the Bible explain itself.
In the story of Joseph, I found that a storehouse was used as a place to store the harvest. Joseph gathered the corn into storehouses and distributed it when there was the need for it (Genesis 41:56). It’s interesting to note that the term is also used this way in the New Testament. In Luke 12:24, Jesus said, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom [or storehouse] or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”
So God is asking His people to bring their tithe to His distribution centre. But where is that?
The Distribution Centre
After reading these things, I pondered, Can we have our own distribution centre and decide for ourselves where our tithes should go? Again, I was impressed to take another look at the key verse, which said that we should do this in order to unlock the windows of heaven.
So far, I had learned to bring (take, carry) all the tithe (one-tenth of my income) into the storehouse (distribution centre). I also noticed the word the in reference to the storehouse. This word indicates that there is a specific storehouse, not many.
Now I examined the rest of the verse, “that there may be meat in mine house.” After studying the word meat, I learned that it was synonymous with provision or money (see also Matthew 6:25; 10:10; 24:45; 25:42; Luke 3:11) and then I was left with the words mine house.
What is God’s house? Is it any place where God’s people meet together to worship Him? After all, He says that He’s present wherever two people have come together in His name (Matthew 18:20). Or was “mine house” specific, just as “the storehouse” was specific?
In 1 Kings 5:5, we read that God ordered Solomon to “build an house” (KJV) for His name. This house (or temple) was no small undertaking and it was located in a very specific place—a place that God Himself dedicated at its completion. People came from everywhere to honour God there.
I learned that God’s house is the public place of worship where His people meet and where others can come to learn of His ways. Thus, God’s house is the church. This public place of worship includes the distribution centre and God’s people are supposed to take their tithes and offerings there.
Jesus called the temple His house: “My house will be a house of prayer” (Luke 19:46). It has always been God’s purpose that the organised place of worship be the distribution centre that provides for His work on earth.
No human organisation is perfect, and even in Bible days the “organised church” sometimes messed up. But God did not change His system, even when His leaders made mistakes.
In fact, Jesus commended the widow who brought her faithful offering to the temple. He could have said, “Hey, lady, don’t you know these corrupt priests are planning to kill me? Don’t put your money into the temple treasury, just hand it to Me because I’m God.” Even by His own example, Jesus supported the system of worship and giving that God had set up.
With this new understanding of what God wants us to do with our money, I made a decision to stop sending my tithe wherever I wanted (or even spending it on myself!) and to trust God’s system. And, amazingly, things began to change in my life.
After making our commitment to place our tithe in God’s house—the organised church—God provided a business opportunity for my husband that allowed us to get out of debt. We were so blessed that we decided to give additional offerings to support other causes we believed in and to help people in need.
I didn’t win the $250 shopping spree, but God provided a suit for my son that was 70 per cent off the original price. We found three pairs of pants at a clearance sale and three more almost new pairs at an op shop. Then, God provided unexpected Christmas and birthday gifts in the form of gift cards to a department store. We were well off, with our needs met!
While many years have passed since I began studying about tithe, my family still doesn’t have piles of gold lying around and we still sometimes experience significant financial difficulties. However, I can say that God has worked many miracles to make sure that we are provided for.
And His blessings aren’t just financial! Sometimes the windows of heaven pour out in the form of the beauty in nature or the unexpected encouragement in a card or kind word from a friend just when we need it most. God has a thousand ways to bless us. I decided to try God, and He has been so faithful that I’m encouraged to keep trying and “proving” Him!
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