Psalm 24 says that the entire earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Psalm 50 says that the cattle on a thousand hills all belong to him. God brought that concept home to his minor children in Old Testament times by “taxing” them 10% of their income.
That 10% was called the tithe. “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. . . . The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30-32).
There were various opportunities for the Israelites to give freewill offerings of livestock, produce, or money to the Lord, but those would have to be given on top of the base tithe, which they were not free to ignore.
Christians today, and especially Christian ministry leaders, need to be very careful in their use of the term tithe. A return of 10% to the Lord, if freely chosen, is a wonderful thing. But the law of the tithe belongs to the Old Covenant, and God’s people today must feel free to choose their gifts to the Lord, even if church leaders are nervous about making their budgets.
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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