As we continue to stretch forth in the second phase of the Safari Encounter 3, the discipline of tithing can hardly be ignored. Indeed, it is one of the lessons in the learner’s handbook to be tackled this week at CITAM Eldoret Assembly. While tithing has been practiced for ages by Christian believers, it is still an area of contention that has either been debated ruthlessly or over-emphasized by individual believers or corporate Christian entities. Conservative estimates reveal that only “about 20% of Christians tithe regularly” (The Safari Encounter 3 Learner’s Handbook, p.74). What do the remaining 80% think about tithing?
Tentatively, let’s begin by inquiring whether the Bible instructs Christians to pay ten percent of their revenues to places of worship. Genesis 14 offers the very first citation of the doctrine of tithing. All the booty was recovered by Abraham after he successfully raided the four Kings of Mesopotamia who had captured Lot. In Gen. 14: 20, Abraham paid ten percent of everything to Melchizedek who was by then referred to as a “priest of God”. Nonetheless, the scripture does not inform us whether he had ever paid his tithe before. Most probably, it was a cultural practice during the generation of Abraham. In verses 23 and 24, the King of Sodom was awarded the remaining booty by Abraham. By any standards, this was a splendid act of generosity!
The tabernacles, Levitical priesthood as well as the nation of Israel were the key cornerstones through which the Lord constructed His requirements and decrees. One of the fundamental decrees was the aspect of giving through tithing. Genesis 28: 20-22 also points out the issue of tithing through the servant of God called Jacob. He vehemently pledged to tithe if the Lord would assist him in the course of his expedition. In Numbers 18:15-17, sacrifices of firstlings (of all animals that were regarded clean) were offered by priests. Such offerings were brought by the believers. First fruits from the harvests were also given by the people for sacrifices. Leviticus 27:30 posits that “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”
In 2 Chronicles 31: 5-6, people tithed in Hezekiah’s days. Other scripture references to tithing include Malachi’s days (Malachi 3: 8-10), the New Testament (Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:23) and during the days of Nehemiah in Neh. 10:35-39; 12:44.
Is tithing still required in the New Testament time? It is evident that the mention about tithing is not frequent in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament era. In Luke 18:12, Jesus applauded the Pharisees for being careful and regular tithers. In fact, He emphasized that it should be fulfilled (Matthew 23:23). Christ did not disapprove tithing among the Pharisees, rather, He lamented at how some of them would prioritize tithing much more than other values such as faithfulness, justice, love, and mercy.
In the Encounter 3 study, the above contention has been highlighted and dealt with gracefully. After completing the lesson on tithing, there should be no discourse on whether tithing is still relevant in the current context of Christian faith. The Lord God whom we serve doesn’t change with seasons or the succeeding generations, neither is His command. He is the same Lord, yesterday, today and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8).
Join us this week in the Thursday or Sunday Cohorts as well as in Study Groups (SGs), in a journey of comprehending and acknowledging tithing as a divine practice that ought to be adhered to by every believer and disciple of Jesus Christ.