By Benjamin C. Maxson, Director

General Conference Stewardship Ministries

This abridged lesson is an excerpt from, ?Let God Be God, Part I—Biblical Stewardship Foundations.?

Summary: Ben Maxson leads us in a study of the history of tithe in the Scriptures—where and when tithing began and the motivation for tithing to God.

Group study.

1) Where in Scripture is tithe first mentioned? In Genesis 14:20. Abraham has experi-enced the covenant promise of God—that He would bless all nations in him. In response to these blessings, Abraham lives throughout life with a sense of God’s presence in everything he does. His was not an overnight transformation but a growth process in which Abraham continued to grow spiritually.

2) What motivates Abraham to tithe? Abraham doesn’t tithe to be blessed. He tithes because he has been blessed. Sodom and Gomorrah have been attacked by enemy kings. The people, including Lot and his family, are taken captive. Abraham gets 318 men from his household ready for battle. Small in number, they are still victorious, and it is obvious that it is God’s doing. In that victory—by God’s protecting him and by returning the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah to their homes—Abraham experiences God’s blessing.

3) Returning from battle, Abraham comes face to face with Melchizedek, king of Salem. His natural response to God’s blessing is to tithe to God, through Melchizedek. God doesn’t say ?Okay, Abraham, because I have blessed you, now you are to give me one-tenth.? Abraham’s tithing is recorded as normal practice. It is not something that was instituted or initiated after Abraham’s victory. He was already used to tithing.

Where it all began.

1) The system of offerings, tithe being a part of this system, began outside the Garden of Eden with the first sacrifice. The first offering was part of worship—acknowledging God as being worthy of worship in His holiness as Creator and with the promise of the Redeemer.

The next story of tithing is Jacob’s (Read Gn 28:22). Jacob has just deceived his father and brother and is running away from home. Alone and exhausted, he falls asleep. In the darkness of his troubled mind comes an incredible dream: Angels ascending and descending on a stairway from earth to heaven.

2) Who is at the top of the ladder? Yes, it is God. Do you remember what God says to him? I will be with you. God repeats the covenant He made to Abraham—that He would make him a blessing. In both places the covenant is unconditional. God says, ?I will do this because I am God. Not because of anything you do. I will bless you and make you a blessing.? Jacob awakens, rested and assured. He says, ?I have seen God.? He calls the place Bethel, ?the House of God.? Then he pours oil on the stone that has been his pillow. In this act of worship he is saying, ?God, if you will be with me as you promised, out of all that you give me, I will return to you a tenth.?

3) In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh discovered a 114-acre lake on the island of Trinidad. The remarkable feature of the lake was the amount of asphalt it contained. Some believed that it held more than six million tons. Over the years, the lake gave of its rich resource to pave many roads and produce other things that need asphalt. More than 500 years later, the lake continues to give and live. And the level of the lake is always the same. Can we compare ourselves to this lake? Do we give in joy? Do we give without reservation or fear? When we find ourselves gripped with the temptation to hoard all for ourselves, let us remember this lake that gave and gave.

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July–September, 2002

Tithe