It would be utterly ridiculous to claim that one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt tithe. " But it would be equally ludicrous to say there is absolutely no relationship between the law of the Ten Commandments and the law of tithing. Nothing upsets us more than to hear that someone else has his fingers in our pocketbook. Master Charge, VISA, Barclay card, our car payment — all combine to spend our paycheck before we even endorse it. But could God Himself rightfully claim a portion of our income in spite of all these other encumbrances?
Most acknowledge that we should at least adhere to the Ten Commandments. But could obedience to that royal law expressing love for God and neighbor have anything to do with the proper distribution of one's income? This article will examine the relationship between tithing and several points in the Decalogue.
The Great Commandment God is the Owner, Proprietor and Creator of everything that our eyes can see. David wrote in the Psalms: "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24: 1). This verse shows that God created everything, and that by virtue of that creation He owns it all — including humankind.
By the act of tithing, we show worship, respect, love and admiration for our Creator. Tithing is an expression of honor and an acknowledgment of God's supreme lordship and mastery of the universe. That's the positive, side of the first and great commandment in its relationship to tithing.
The negative aspect reads: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:2-3). For the true Christian, Egypt is a symbol of this present evil world, out of which God has delivered us. Therefore we owe Him the honor of avoiding sacrilege in any way, manner, shape or form.
Shunning other gods, in the true New Testament application, involves far more than not bowing down before a literal, man-made idol. You can easily make a god out of the unrighteous mammon of money and wealth. Indeed, this is perhaps the most common violation of the Ten Commandments in the Western world.
Giving one-tenth of one's income to be used for educational and humanitarian purposes helps one retain a sense of proportion about life's ultimate priorities. Money can be a very real "root of evil" when a person's total energies are channeled toward its acquisition and spending. It is much healthier to focus on the needs of others — whether those needs are to be told about the coming Kingdom of God, or to be ministered to in some other way.
But let's look at another one of God's commandments that few would think bears any relationship to tithing.
The Sabbath and Tithing The Sabbath commandment belongs to that part of the Decalogue that expresses our love toward God. It specifically involves honoring God with the proper use of a fixed period of time.
Many believe that it is not in the nature of the New Testament God to require a fixed amount of money from those that love Him. They insist that one should only give as much as he wishes to — that there. should be no minimum standard of giving.
God does, however, require one-seventh of our time in observing His Sabbath. So just as there is a minimum standard of time that God insists that we devote to worship of Him, it makes sense that there also would be a minimum standard of giving — a tenth (tithe) of our incomes.
God tells us to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8) and that "to morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord" (Ex. 16:23). So the Sabbath day definitely is holy time to God. Likewise, it is stated elsewhere in the Pentateuch that the tithe is holy to God (Lev. 27:30, 32-33). The term "holy" is primarily defined in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary as being "set apart to the service of God."
So the Christian honors His heavenly Father by setting apart the tithe to the service of God's Work.
Honor Your Heavenly Father The Bible specifically commands us to honor our physical parents (Ex. 20:12). But spiritually, when we become converted, God is literally our heavenly Father and the Church is the "mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26).
One of the ways in which we can honor God is to return to Him the "firstfruits" of all our increase (Prov. 3:9). However, for obvious reasons it is a little difficult to give our financial blessings directly to the Creator God. Fortunately, the Church represents God as His designated recipient! Those who are preaching the gospel are to gain their livelihood through financial contributions (I Cor. 9:14). Paul wrote: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour [Greek, remuneration], especially they who labour in the word and doctrine" (I Tim. 5:17).
The Bible is crystal clear on this point. The Church is to be honored by reaping a fixed proportion of the physical blessings of the people (along with additional freewill offerings) in order to perform the great commission of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness.
But the first and fourth commandments are not the only ones that relate to tithing. Consider also the eighth commandment.
You Shall Not Steal One of the cardinal sins committed in the Garden of Eden was stealing. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit — took what was not theirs — they, in effect, stole directly from their heavenly Father.
The question is asked in I Samuel 2:25: "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat [intercede] for him?"
Could one actually sin against the Creator God by withholding tithes and offerings? The prophet Malachi answers: " Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you" (Mal. 3:8-9, RSV).
Failure to tithe, as shown by Malachi, is regarded by God as outright robbery. It is an affront to God! It is a symptom of both personal and national disrespect for our Creator. God asks: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour?" (Mal. 1:6.)
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church of God: "Let him that stole steal no more..." (Eph. 4:28). That is good advice for anybody who might allow himself the "luxury" of withholding a portion of his income from God.
Of course, our failure to tithe does not of itself hurt God! He already owns the universe and everything in it. The real hurt is borne by our neighbors. Many are not able to hear, see or read the good news of God's coming Kingdom because the necessary funds have not always been forthcoming. God commands His Church to preach and publish the gospel to all nations around the world (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). But it takes hard cash to buy radio and television time, not to mention paying for skyrocketing publishing and postal costs.
Covetousness Is Idolatry! Covetousness is a major sin in the Western world today. But the sin doesn't stop with lusting after what belongs to somebody else. It is very difficult to separate sins against your neighbor from sins against God. Paul wrote to the Ephesian brethren: "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. 5:5). Paul did not mince words. Breaking the tenth commandment also breaks the first. Covetousness is idolatry!
And whether you covet what belongs to God or what belongs to your neighbor, it is still a violation of the "first and great commandment" so far as God is concerned. If you covet that portion of your income that you know, deep down, should go to God in the service of His Work, you are guilty of violating the first and last commandments. So there is a vital relationship between tithing and the Ten Commandments.
And the New Testament also shows that the ten points of the Decalogue have been summed up in the two great precepts of love of God and neighbor (Matt. 19:16-19; Luke 10:25-27; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5). But Jesus went even further. He said: "On these two commandments [love of God and love of neighbor] hang all the law [including tithing] and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40).