This is part of the series on tithing. In Part 1, we examined what tithing is and when it was instituted. We further looked at the record to determine that it was instituted before Mt Sinai and is in force for Christians today. In Part 2, we looked at the OT to see that there were 3 tithes, each with a specific purpose. However, we need to now further look at each tithe to determine how it fits in with the New Covenant and to whom the tithes go. In Part 3, we will examine who is the recipient of the first tithe.
Recap of First Tithe
First tithe is the one that most are familiar with. For a variety of reasons, the second and third tithe are unfamiliar to many in the modern Western culture.
The first tithe is the one that was holy and dedicated to God. God then gave this tithe to the Levites because they had no land inheritance. A subset of the Levites was the Aaronic priesthood, and the Levites further tithed to the priests. This helped to feed and clothe the Levites and priests so they could be free to perform the functions of the tabernacle and, later, the temple. It was holy to God. It was to be used to carry out His work.
So, what does this mean for us today? First of all, there are no Levites working in a tabernacle or temple and no Aaronic priesthood. Second, there is no temple. Thirdly, what is God’s work today that we are supporting? Until these questions are answered, it is impossible to know for sure that we are tithing in a manner consistent with God’s desires.
Change in Priesthood
Ironically, opponents of tithing often cite the change in priesthood as “proof” that tithing is not required today. However, this argument falls down rather quickly, as we’ll see, and it actually tells us where we are to give that one-tenth of our income.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
~ Heb 7:11-14
In this section the author, whom I believe to be Paul, tells us the priesthood has changed. It is no longer after the order of Aaron.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
~ v 17
However, what is used as a justification of this change? Well, we are given the answer earlier in the chapter through the example of tithing!
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
~ vv 1-6
So, even as Aaron was high priest, Jesus Christ is now our high priest.
However, the priesthood consists of more than one man. Aaron had help, and Jesus Christ today works through His Church.
And having an high priest over the house of God;
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
~ Heb 13:7
You will find the priesthood, then, in God’s Church. God’s Church is the spiritual temple.
The Spiritual Temple
The tabernacle hasn’t been around since the time of David. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD. In fact, it was quite likely that the Book of Hebrews was written just before its destruction in order to reassure the early Church.
So, where is the temple on earth? It is the Church!
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
~ 1Co 3:16-17
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
~ 2Co 6:15-16
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
~ 1Co 12:12-14 (cf. Jn 2:19-21)
God’s Church is Where His Work is Being Done
So, where is God’s Church? It is made up of His people. His people are the ones who keep His commandments (1Jn 2:3-4; Rev 12:17; 14:12).
If God’s temple was where God’s work was being carried out in the OT, then we must look to see where His work is being done now. What is His work?
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
~ Mt 28:19-20
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
~ Mt 24:14
There have been those who have said Herbert W Armstrong completed the work of preaching the Gospel. Nonsense! Has Christ returned already?
Notice that God’s Church will be:
- Keeping His commandments, even that 4th one!
- Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not only half the story that Jesus came and died for our sins.
- Making disciples. In other words, taking care of them once they have been called.
Unfortunately, many of the Churches of God seem to lack the love required for the last one. Some of the worst offenders run around calling themselves “Philadelphian”, which means “brotherly love”, but they do not display one drop of it!
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
~ Jn 13:35
Should you give to some organization that claims to be the “one true church” even if they are not doing all 3 (4 if you count love for other disciples, maybe even if they belong to a different COG organization) of these? No!
OT Example of Giving to a Non-Levite
Notice that Elisha was a man of God. He was not a Levite. However, under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, there was no one in the land carrying out God’s work in the open. So, while he was staying in Gilgal, a man came to him to give of his firstfruits!
And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
…And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.
And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.
So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
~ 2Ki 4:38, 42-44
- The sons of the prophets may or may not have been Levites, but it is known that Elisha was not.
- They were the sons of the prophets, a center where God’s work was being done.
- A man came to Elisha and gave him of the firstfruits, something usually only given to Levites in the tabernacle/temple.
- Elisha shared the firstfruits with others doing the work.
God’s Church is where His work is being done. That identifies where your first tithe should go.