Tithing, Part 2

By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D. (c) 1999 PLIM REPORT, Vol. 8 #3

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One of the most common abuses Christian Churches make is to demand tithes from their congregations. In fact, it is impossible to be a member in most churches without giving tithes. Those who do not tithe are condemned and shamed before the congregation. Recent scandals of various famous TV ministers flaunting their wealthy lifestyles and revealing their hypocrisy have caused people to reduce their tithe.

Part One of an article on tithing, called "Can Tithing Cause Blessings?" written in the first issue of "PLIM REPORT," proved that according to the scriptures tithing was a part of the Law of Moses or the Old Covenant. Under this covenant, the priests received tithes because they did not receive an inheritance or land since their services were to offer animal sacrifices for Israel's sins and to perform other services in the tabernacle. The Torah states: "To the Levites I have assigned all tithes in Israel as their heritage for the service they perform in the sanctuary (Numbers 18:21)." The term "ma'aser" (tithe) denotes a tenth part. Yahshua the Messiah's mission was to fulfill or abolish this Old Covenant (Mt. 5:17-18 Rom. 10:4; Heb. 10:1-17).

Under the New Covenant no one is required to give tithes, for the Old Levite priesthood was abolished (Heb. 7th chp.). This does not mean that one cannot donate to a ministry. However, one is led by the heart (Rom. 8:14), not the dictates of Laws, to contribute for the perpetuation of a ministry or other charitable endeavor.

What is the purpose of this article?

The intent of this article is to show that there was another component of tithing that few Christian churches practice. It was the giving of the tithe to the poor. A certain portion of the tithe was given to unfortunate people, such as the widow, the poor, and the fatherless. In fact, few Christians know about this fact. It also shows that Christian ministers are picking and choosing what ordinances of the Law of Moses they want to keep. This article will also examine the number of tithes under the law.

How many tithes are there according to the Law of Moses?

For at least two thousand of years no one was sure of the number of tithes required by the Law of Moses. There is no consensus among various Biblical scholars on how many tithes were to be given. Some Biblical scholars say there were three tithes, while others say that were two.

This is basically due to the discrepancy between the accounts of tithing recorded in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. According to the International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, (Electronic Database 1996 by Biblesoft), this discrepancy was harmonized in the Jewish tradition. This means that the tradition of the various Jews is used because of the ambiguity of the scriptures.

What types of tithes were given?

There were three categories of tithes practiced under the law. According to A Book of Jewish Concepts by Philip Birnbaum, they were the First Tithe, Second Tithe, and Poor Tithe. The three tithes are called in Hebrew: ma'aser rishon, ma'aser sheni, ma'aser 'ani, respectively. Israelites were also required to contribute terumah (gifts to the priests) from the fruits of their fields before they paid their tithes to the Levites.

Now the First Tithe consisted of one-tenth of the whole produce of the soil which was to be assigned for the maintenance of the Levite priests and out of this the Levite priests were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high priest.

Now 2) second tithe which the owner must consume in Jerusalem (Deut 14:22-27); Now the actual second tithe of produce could be converted into money, plus a fifth of its value, and reconverted into food in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:24-27).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, further elucidates this subject. It states: "the second tithe was the remaining nine-tenths had to be set apart and consumed in Jerusalem. Those who lived far from Jerusalem could change this Second Tithe into money with the addition of a 5th part of its value. Only food, drink or ointment could be bought for the money (Ma`aser Sheni 2:1; compare <Deut 14:26>). The tithe of cattle belonged to the Second Tithe, and was to be used for the feast in Jerusalem (Zebhachim <5:8>)."

The third tithe called the poorman's tithe which takes the place of the second tithe in the third and sixth year of the seven-year cycle culminating in the sabbatical year, according to A book of Jewish Concepts (p. 383 ). It should also be noted that the kings sometimes neglected to follow the Law of Moses and did not always keep the tithing system.

What commentaries have been written on tithing?

According to New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Josephus, the Jewish historian, states distinctly that there are three tithes. He says that "one-tenth was to be given to the priests and Levites, one-tenth was to be applied to feasts in the metropolis, and that a tenth besides these was every third year to be given to the poor (cf. Tob. 1:7-8).

On the other hand, Maimonides says that there are only two tithes "…the third and sixth years' second tithe was shared between the poor and the Levites, i.e., that there was no third tithe. Of these opinions, that which maintains three separate and complete tithing seems improbable (p. 1291)."

Did anyone else receive tithes besides the priest?

As shown by this article, people other than the priests received the tithe. These other people were the poor, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who had access to the tithe every third year, which was called the "year of tithing." Yahweh instituted tithing in the Wilderness of Sinai after Israel was delivered out of Egypt.

Moses wrote the following:"When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled (Deu. 26:12)." All of this has great spiritual significance, which will be discussed later.

What happened during the third year of tithing?

New Unger's Bible Dictionary (Moody Press 1988) states the following about tithing in the third year. "4) … at the end of three years all the tithe of that year was to be gathered and laid up within the "gates" and that a festival was to be held in which the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, together with the Levite, were to partake. (5) Last, it was ordered that after taking the tithe in each third year, "the year of tithing," every Israelite had to declare that he had done his best to fulfill the divine command (Lev. 26:12-14)." This has special significance for it represents the Messiah's resurrection, which will be explained later in this article.

Did Yahshua the Messiah tithe?

The Messiah's purpose was to fulfill the law and the prophets (Lk. 24:44-46; Mt. 5:17-18), so during His lifetime since He was born under the Law, He kept the Law of Moses (Gal. 4:4). This simply meant that He was bringing an end to this old form of ritualistic worship and animal sacrificing to Elohim. Thus, mankind could worship the Creator Elohim in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:21-41).

Now tithing was a great source of revenue for the priests at the time of the Messiah. He told the religious leaders the following about tithing. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Mt. 23:23)."

In short, Yahshua the Messiah told the religious leaders of Israel that their focus was on earthly assets and they were more interested in money than on the principles of righteousness, such as "law, judgment, mercy, and faith." This fact is still true today with the Christian religions of the world.

How was the year of tithing fulfilled?

Yahshua the Messiah told the people of Israel that the scriptures testified of Him (Jn. 5:39). What this means is that such things as animals sacrifices testified of His death, since according to John the Baptist He was the real lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). His death brought an end to all forms of animal sacrifices for sin.

What is the spiritual reality of tithing?

Now tithing has a great spiritual significance that most Christians do not know. The key to understanding the spiritual reality of the tithe comes from the fact that the Israelites had to give to the priests "a tenth" of all that they produced from the ground or from animal multiplication.

The Levite priesthood, who received the tithes, was a mediator between Israel and Yahweh, and symbolically represented Yahshua the Messiah who is the mediator between mankind and the Father Yahweh (1 Tim. 2:5). Now the tithe from the earth spiritually represents the souls that resurrected with Yahshua. Clearly, when the Messiah, the true high priest, resurrected from the grave with human spirits (Mt. 27: 51-53) following Him, this is the "true tithe." Yahshua figuratively gave His father a tenth of the souls of men, as Israel gave the Levites a tenth and the Levites gave a tenth to the High Priest.

Also the resurrection of Yahshua from the grave occurred on the "third day" beginning with His death. According to Hebrew divine calculation 1 Year equals 1 day (Num. 14:34). Thus, the 3 days equals 3 years. Since the "day of the resurrection" symbolically represents the third year, this makes it the true "year of tithing."

The resurrection took place in Jerusalem where the year of tithing was celebrated, which was where the fatherless, the widows, the orphans, and poor ate the tithe. Now the fatherless, widows, orphans, and the poor represent all mankind spiritually for we all manifest these qualities until our minds are transformed. We are all poor in spirit until we have faith, trust, and hope in Yahweh, which allows us to partake of the abundant riches our creator provides for His creation (John 10:10). We are all fatherless in spirit until we recognize are true spiritual origin (Gal 4:6-7). We are all widows until we become married to the Messiah, our Husband (Isa. 54:5), who is the Way, Light and the Truth. All of Israel and the world must eat the words of the Messiah, for they are the life of the soul (Jn. 6:63). The "year of tithing" typifies this spiritual operation of feeding the soul who is the resurrection and Life (Jn. 11:24-26).


Finally, if most Christians truly understood tithing, then they would not demand physical tithes in terms of money from their congregations. They would understand that the real tithe represents the beliefs the souls are eating, reproducing spiritually in their hearts, and offering up to the true high priest under the New Covenant (Heb. 13:15).


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