And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you."Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.
- Genesis 14:18-20
Tithing is a very touchy subject for many people within churches. Most feel that if a preacher even mentions money at all then that is all that they are after. I even struggled with this issue for a long time. I made up my own system of tithing and refused to give any money to a church. I had decided that I could better choose where my money went in order to help people than any church could. Of course I have come to realize that this mindset is wrong. There are some very significant things that many people miss about tithing because they don't take the time to study it out in the bible. Hopefully, what I share here in this blog will give you a better understanding of the importance of giving to God what is already His.
In Genesis 14 we read of the very first biblical instance of tithing. Abraham had gone out to war with some invading forces that had taken his nephew Lot and his family captive. They were victorious in rescuing Lot and the rest of his family and they plundered the enemies camp. On their way home to celebrate the victory we read that Abraham met with Melchizedek and paid a tenth of everything he had recovered to him. While this is the first time the bible records a tithe being paid, the act of giving a tenth to those in authority was a common practice at the time.
The Baker Theological Dictionary of The Bible (Walter A. Elwell [editor]) states:
"Giving a portion of one's profits or the spoils of war was known in the ancient world from Greece to China. Gifts were made as religious offerings, or given to a political authority as tribute or tax. Donation of a tenth portion, or tithe, was common apparently because most people counted in tens, based on ten fingers" (Tithe, Tithing, p.779).
I highlighted the word tribute above because that is what Abraham was paying to Melchizedek, a tribute. He wasn't paying a tax, he was giving out of what was restored and recovered from the enemy. There had been a victory and Abraham understood that a tribute should be given to God to acknowledge that it was only by His grace the battle had been won. Let's look at the word tribute for a moment.
Definition of TRIBUTE
1a : a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection; also : the tax levied for such a payment b
2a : something given or contributed voluntarily as due or deserved; especially : a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection b : something (as material evidence or a formal attestation) that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question
When you give a tribute to someone, you are acknowledging to them and yourself that you are submitted to their authority. It is also a way of showing respect, gratitude, or affection. More importantly however is the fact that the tribute stands as material evidence of the worth, virtue, and effectiveness of the one receiving the tribute. This is the truth of what tithing means. It is a way for us to acknowledge who our King really is. Every time we pay tithes we should do it with the mindset that we are submitting to the one who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.
Even more amazing is the generational blessings that can come from tithing.
For although Levi wasn't born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham's body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.
- Hebrews 7:10
When we give to God our seed is giving to God. Generations of our family that we will never see are counted as having tithed when we give.
So the question needs to be asked, how much do we give? Is it a tenth of everything we earn form our jobs? Is it more? Is it less?
Let's look at what was given by people who were being saved in the bible.
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
- Acts 2:44-45
So how much do we give according to the bible? EVERYTHING. I'm not saying that we need to go out and sell all we have. We should however have the mindset that all we have is God's and we need to be open to what He wants us to do with it. When we struggle to give God our money, possessions, and time, we will also struggle to give Him our love, honor, and affection. The bible says that where a man's treasure is, his heart is there also. I find it interesting that the treasure is mentioned before the heart. Where we place our most valued possessions will lead our heart to that same place. We can pave a path for our heart to draw closer to God if we give Him that which we hold most dear.
Starting this week, let's acknowledge our King and bless the future generations of our families. Let's place our treasure where we want our heart to be.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
- Ephesians 5:25-27
Paul tells us that the Church as a whole is the Bride of Christ. Jewish tradition shows that when a man became engaged to his bride, he would then leave her to go and prepare the place where he was going to bring her. Traditionally this period took about a year from the moment of engagement. We could say that we as the Church are in this engagement period with Christ. He has purchased for us a wedding ring with His blood and He has now gone to prepare a place for us. The problem is the world has been spending all this time trying to get us to break our engagement.
They have a ring of their own and they hold it up high and claim that the one they have is the real thing. They want us to believe that what they are offering is the ring that the Bride is really after. The truth however, is that what the world is offering is nothing more than an imitation. If Jesus has purchased us a diamond then the world is offering a cubic zirconia.
A cubic zirconia is a man made stone that is sold as an imitation diamond. It looks pretty close to a diamond. It sparkles like one and can be cut to look just like one. It can even be put into the same ring setting as a diamond but at the end of the day, it's no diamond. A 1 carat natural cut diamond is worth roughly $20,000 and a 1 carat cut cubic zirconia is worth less than $20. The real thing costs and if you were going to purchase it, then you would have to sacrifice to get it. The imitation is much easier to find and requires next to no sacrifice in order to obtain it.
The biggest problem today is that the Church doesn't offer the diamond to the world. They look at what the world is offering, try to copy it, and then offer the Christian version of it to the lost. What is ultimately made is an imitation of an imitation. We (the Church) are really offering the lost members of the Bride of Christ nothing more than a plastic ring that has no real value at all.
I watch my young daughters and they have a blast dressing up with plastic jewelry. However, I know that as they get older, eventually they aren't going to be satisfied with plastic jewelry anymore. There will come a day when they start to understand the value of the real thing and the imitations won't look as nice anymore. The same thing happens in the Church. New Christians are wooed in with flashy plastic jewelry and they find some satisfaction putting it on and dressing the part. Then, as time goes by, they grow up and realize that there must be something more to all of this. The plastic ring they started with can't be all there is. Can it? They struggle because what the world has looks so much better. It's shinier and flashier. It is obviously worth far more than what they've been given.
What do you think happens then? If they are never shown the real thing, the diamond that Jesus purchased for us, then they walk away from the plastic ring and take the cubic zirconia of the world. We have to see that the Cross of Calvary purchased far more than we have been offering to the lost. Let's stop imitating the imitation and start looking to the one who bought the diamond. Let's start offering the same thing that He offered us.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
- John 15:13
It's going to be hard. It's going to cost us. It's going to require sacrifice.
It's going to change the world.
Phillip Reed is the Associate Pastor of Faith Chapel Ministries. His passion is to reconcile the lost to their Heavenly Father.