By Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries

Summary: Too often we argue over tithe as a funding issue. We bicker over our rights to manage it or to give it wherever we want to. This will continue as long as we see tithe as the way to fund the church, as the means to support that which we deem worthy.

A tithe of everything . . . belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord (Lev 27:30). With these words, God brought centuries of history and tradition into direct instruction for the children of Israel.

Tithing or a commitment to tithe was an integral part of Israelite heritage. Now God brought His perspective to the family practice. Tithing was to be more than a family tradition; it was to be more than mere habit. God established His claim on the material area of life. As often as the Israelites received some material blessing, tithe would help them remember that everything belonged to God. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps 24:1). This way, God established tithe as a personal test of loyalty.

Do we recognize God for who He is--the owner of all? Or do we claim ownership, and thus usurp God’s place in life? Before we debate how tithe should be used, we must understand what it is. Before we argue about where tithe should go, we must accept God as lord and owner of all. Biblical passages on tithe clearly indicate it to be a matter of worship, recognizing God in a response of praise and submission.

Too often we argue over tithe as a funding issue. We bicker over our rights to manage it or to give it wherever we want to. This will continue as long as we see tithe as the way to fund the church, as the means to support that which we deem worthy. But is this biblically correct?

We have traditionally taught that the primary purpose for tithe was to support the ministry, or the church. Yet we cannot biblically support this position. The children of Israel did not support the sanctuary system and the Levites and priests with their tithe. Instead, they brought their tithes to God in worship, acknowledging Him as creator, redeemer, and owner. God received these tithes as worship, and then He gave them to the Levites (Num 18:21-26).

We may claim the right to manage that which we support, but can we claim the right to manage that which God supports? Tithe is a personal statement about our individual relationship with God; it is not a tool to manipulate God’s church with. Tithe is a statement of faith that recognizes who God is in our lives, individually and corporately. What does your tithe say about your relationship with God?

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October–December, 1998

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