In our last article we took a look at the tithe that Abraham gave to Melchizedek (read here). There were a few noteworthy things that we discovered from that account:
- Abram only gave a tenth of what he won in battle, not his income.
- We have no record of God commanding him to give a tenth.
- We never read about Abram (or Abraham) giving a tenth outside of this account.
- Abram’s gift is never used as an example for other believers on giving.
We also noted the following:
In summary, I think it is clear from an examination of this account and all relevant scripture that Abram’s gift of a tenth of the spoils of war does not “prove” that God demands 10% of every Christian’s gross income. Abraham’s gift was voluntary, occurred once, was only based on the spoils of war (in which he defended SODOM!), and never given to us as an example of giving.
Today we will examine the account of Jacob’s tithe, and see what we can learn from it.
In Genesis 28:20-22 we find these words:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
It is important for us to note a few characteristics about Jacob’s vow:
- It was voluntary.
- We never read about Jacob giving or vowing a tenth outside of this account.
- We have no record of a priest to receive his tithe.
- Jacob’s gift is never used as an example for other believers.
Let’s look at each point in detail:
1) Jacob’s vow was voluntary:
Nowhere in scripture do we read that God commanded Jacob to give Him a tenth of his possessions. Jacob made this vow on his own, in response to God’s promise of blessing. God never commanded Jacob, Abraham, or any of the other Patriarchs to give a tenth of their income or possessions.
2) This is the only time in all of scripture that we read about Jacob vowing (or giving) a tenth.
The bible does not show that this was a common or habitual practice for Jacob. We never see any record of or allusion to Jacob giving or vowing to give a tenth of his income or possessions outside of this account.
3) We have no record of a priest to receive his tithe.
Unlike Abram who had the priest Melchizedek to receive his offering, we do not read of Jacob having such an encounter with a priest. In fact, we have no record of how Jacob actually fulfilled his vow.
4) Jacob’s gift is never used as an example for other believers.
Like Abraham, we are never urged to look at this event as an example for our giving. However, there are aspects of this account that we should mimic such as; it was voluntary giving, it was his automatic response after the promise of God’s blessing (Genesis 28:13-15), and he understood that his provision and protection would come from God.
Looking at this account in detail, it is clear that Jacob’s vow in Genesis 28:20-22 has very little in common with the practice of “tithing” found in most modern churches. While Jacob’s vow was completely voluntary, most believers today are taught that God commands them to give 10% of their income to their church. Some go as far to claim that believers are “robbing God” if they do not give the required 10% (a topic we will cover in great detail in our next article)! This teaching cannot be reconciled to the voluntary instances of tithing before the law (both Abraham and Jacob). Also, there are many passages in the New Testament that teach on giving – none of these passages mention paying a tenth (or tithe), nor do they even allude to the “tenths” given by Abraham or Jacob.
As I stated before:
The primary reason why many teach that giving 10% of your gross income is God’s command comes from a basic misunderstanding of what tithing really was. As we examined in our previous articles on this subject, the various “tithes” commanded in the Law of Moses served as taxes to support various functions of the nation – supporting the government officials (Levites), funding the national religious ceremonies and festivals, and providing for the needy (widows, orphans and immigrants).
***The tithes were nothing more than mandatory taxes levied on the citizens of Israel to fund their government.***
The only two mentions of the word tithe (or tenth) before the Law of Moses, were both voluntary gifts that are not connected to what is taught in most churches today.
However, the bible shows that the Israelites gave voluntary, sacrificial, heartfelt offerings to God above their required taxes (the various tithes). I will devote a later article to the subject of voluntary giving in the Old Testament, but you can look at Exodus 25:2 and Exodus 36:3-7 for now.
In our next article we will take a look at the situation in the days of Malachi to get a better understanding of his words.
Do you have any questions on tithing, taxes or giving that you would like to be addressed in this series? Do you have any questions on anything in this article? Feel free to leave a comment below.