No one is to come before me without a gift. You must work for six days, but on the seventh day you must rest—even during the planting season and the harvest season. Celebrate the Feast of Weeks when you gather the first grain of the wheat harvest. And celebrate the Feast of Shelters in the fall. Exodus 34:20-22
What stands out to you about these verses from Exodus?
It’s difficult to take a few verses out of this Old Testament book without distorting the lessons within the context of its culture or assuming application for us today. Yet I’m confident we can do it! Let’s begin by considering gifts and how we tithe what God has given us.
We often think of the gifts as those God has given us. Those are important, but they’re not the gifts referred to in Exodus 34, at least not in a direct sense. In reality, however, any gift we give God is merely a re-gifting of something he has given us. He provides, we receive, and we steward what he’s given us by using what we have wisely, sharing with others, and giving a portion back to him. It’s not that God needs the actual gift, but he wants our hearts. He wants our willingness to sacrifice our pride, materialism, and neediness. He desires we set ourselves and our priorities aside to yield to him and his priorities.
We often think of this “giving back” as our tithe. And we consider tithe as giving 10% of our income to the local church or other charitable organizations. Let’s take a deeper look at this presumption.
Throughout the first mentions of tithing in the Old Testament, income in the form of money is rarely mentioned. The Hebrew people worked and lived off the land, so the fruits of the land and the land itself was tithed. The Hebrew meaning of the word “tithe” meant the destruction of something, which meant clearing a portion of the land of crops. Because “income” included the land itself, and a portion of the land couldn’t be dug up and somehow given to God, it was sacrificed by making sure it could not be used for material gain. By faithfully sacrificing something that could otherwise provide for themselves and their families, Hebrews who tithed placed their trust in God through the very act of tithing.
You might find it difficult to write a check for 10% of your income with each paycheck and place it in the offering plate as it passes you each weekend, but ask yourself a few tough questions in the context of what God might be teaching us through the Hebrews.
Do you tithe on your net or gross pay? What is your reasoning and do you believe God agrees?
How can you tithe (sacrificially give back to God) your home and property?
Walk around your house. How can you tithe your electronics, food, home décor and other items?
Listen to yourself as you rationalize through the whys and hows of tithing. Are you consistent with God’s guidelines and plans?
Also, as we settle into the belief that tithing is “giving back” and requires a specific percentage, we can consequently set aside the act of obedience. We can settle into the act of dividing by ten and writing a check and forget the root or result of the sacrifice. In fact, tithing can develop into something that lacks resemblance of sacrifice, which makes it no longer tithing in the biblical sense. God provides guidelines for us, but the guidelines are intended to draw us into relationship with him. When the guidelines get in the way of relationship, we need to be convicted, challenged, and often admonished. God wants us to seek him. He wants us to trust him. He wants us to listen and be obedient. And he gives us choices every step of the way.