Saturday, November 12, 2011

Was the Tithe Given From an Income or Assets?

In the Bible, the tithe was never given from an Income or Assets. Deuteronomy 14 once again has the answer. Verse 22 says, "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year." I looked up the word 'increase' and it actually means, 'More than what you had before. To grow in number or size.' The Israeli landowner either tended flocks and herds or farmed. The herdsman 'grew' livestock, like cows, sheep, goats, etc. Most of the growers dealt in various types of Produce such as fruits, vegetables, grains, oils, nuts, and wine.

I am sure they had a bartering system in place in those days, but for the most part the economy thrived on using money. Shekels were the common mode of currency used. The usage of money goes way back, before the Hebrew ever became a people separated by God. Silver and gold were the preferred choice of buying and selling because they never lost their intrinsic value. This 'metal-money' was, and still is truly intrinsic because it can be used to make items that'll pass the test of time. Also because these metals don't corrode like other other metals. Silver was more common, less valuable and lighter to carry than gold. That's Probably why shekels were made of silver.  

Where there is money, income is usually generated from the sale of an 'asset.' An asset for the purposes of this lesson, is taken from the sense, 'to own a valuable commodity.' This would include lands, herds, flocks, vineyards, Produce, etc. Non-landowners had different assets they could claim as well. One didn't have to be a landowner to possess an asset or two. Assets were never considered an income. An asset wouldn't become an income until it was sold or exchanged for something else, and for a Profit. The Profit from that sale would be the income. 

The Bible tells us that a tithe was to be derived from the increase of the 'seed,' whether that seed was land animal or a crop. This is an interesting sidebar, but I believe that the meaning of an increase went deeper than most might assume. Since the farmer or herder was to tithe off of the increase, then it stands to reason that the starting point to begin the benchmark for the seven-year tithe cycle would be the first year. Remember, the celebration of God's blessing was what the tithe was all about. An increase would surely be a blessing because it truly shows God's miraculous work and not what we can do. The starting point to know what kind of an increase was in store for us in the coming five years would be the amount generated from the first year's farming effort. We never count the seventh year because God had commanded that in the seventh year the land was to rest. No increase was derived that year.

So, if I were a farmer, and God Produced 1000 bushels of wheat for me the first year, I would tithe 100 bushels. The next year He increased the number of bushels to 2000. Then, I would tithe 200 bushels, right? Not so fast! The farmer was to tithe off of the increase. What is the increase in number from 1000 to 2000? It's 1000! Verse 22 did say, "year by year." 

The reason this is important is because there were years of drought, or famine in the land. If a drought or famine occurred the next year, where was the 'increase' then? If the farmer saw that each year's yield was bigger than the previous year's, then he could say, "Wow! There's no way I could have done this on my own! God is truly a miracle worker!" But let's say that he used a new fertilizer, or some new method to increase his yield. By all rights he could give the credit to that, instead of God. The tithe was meant to celebrate God's blessings, not what man could achieve. He wanted all the credit and He deserves all the glory! Now let's suppose that the ground yielded less than the previous year. I don't exactly see an increase then, do you? I added this for something to muse over. Don't think too hard on it, okay?

As far as a tithe coming from an asset is concerned, I want to say this. I have been counseled by former pastors about paying "my Back Tithes." What is a Back Tithe? Here is how it was explained to me by my pastor: He said, "If you haven't tithed in awhile, what you do is this...You take an inventory of everything you bought with God's money during your tithing drought. You were robbing God all that time anyway, so now that you've repented of not tithing, you need to pay Him back. Take an inventory of all that you own and add up the cost. Then, you just tithe off of that on top of your regular tithe until it's paid off. Just make the checks payable to 'Filthy Lucre Baptist Church."

Okay then, let's see... In the two years I neglected to tithe, I bought a house, a water heater, a car, and a computer. Now let's add all this up and see what we get. Hmmm. Okay! The house was $200,000, the water heater was $2,000, the car was $12,000 and the computer was $1,300. That's a grand total of, click, click, click, drum-roll please,....'Ch-Ching!' $215,300.00! That means I owe the Lord $21,530.00 in "back tithes" according to my "financial adviser" (aka, my pastor). According to my present salary or hourly wage, I add $195.73 per week over the next two years to my present tithe! What a DEAL!!! There's all kinds of friendly and sincere financial advise given out by the clergy. The Problem is, some of it just isn't sound. This clergyman actually wanted me to take an inventory of my assets and add more to my tithe every week! I may look like a dummy in my photo, but I assure you, I am not.

Whether the increase came from more than the year before, or from nothing to something each year isn't the issue. The issue is, neither an income or an asset is where God wanted the tithe to come from. He wanted it from the increase of the seed from the land within the borders of Israel only! People today try and explain away, splice together, rationalize and spiritually apply whatever they want to support their beliefs and actions toward supporting the income tithe as we know it today. That's human nature. If they want to equate an Israeli's farmer's increased yield to their paychecks, subtract ten percent from that, call it a tithe, then let them continue in their delusions. But, let it be known; this way of thinking is not Scriptural at all. The only thing that supports this train of thought are the rails of pride. When one supports this "doctrine," they are saying, "God commands it!" The reality however, is that God never said any such thing. They are calling Him a liar.

Tithing in the O.T. was for celebrating God's blessings, and that came from the increase of the seed, not from an income or assets. I hope that one may separate in their mind the difference between what the tithe was for in the O.T. and not plug that into modern day terminology and practice. Tithing was not meant for the modern day 'Church-goer'. I hope this helps us to be aware that plugging-in one Scripture into a pet doctrine can be very sinful and expensive. The Mosaic Law on tithing wasn't aimed at anyone's income. Nor was it aimed at one's assets. It was separated from God's increase year by year.

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