Friday, November 11, 2011

What is the Tithe Cycle and Who was Exempted from Tithing?

The 'Tithe Cycle' and 'Who was Exempted from Tithing' is important to understand if we are to understand the practice of tithing. We'll start from Deuteronomy 14:28, "At the end of three years that shalt bring forth all the tithe of thy increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates." Here we see a slight change in the tithe Procession. The first two years of this cycle the tither is commanded to celebrate and consume the tithe with his family and give ten percent of his tithe to the Levite. Another place where this is reaffirmed in Deuteronomy 26:12-13, "When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; 13 Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:"

The Levite was supposed to receive this tithe from the tithe because he was not allowed to own land. He could work the land, but he couldn't own the land. As a matter of fact, the Levite farmer worked the land for the landowner most of the year. Two weeks out of the year however, he was obligated to perform his tasks within the tabernacle and later the Temple. The reason for this is The LORD God had separated the Levite tribe to be servants to Him. They had one inheritance and that was God Himself. Otherwise they had no inheritance to speak of. It is also important to note that God had a rule that the tithe could only be derived from the seed of the land within the Israeli borders. No outside (foreign) imported foods were allowed to be given as a tithe. Not even fish from it's shores.

Now, back to the Tithe Cycle. The end of the third year, which was the third year Fall Harvest, there was a major change. At the end of the third year, the tither (landowner) was to lay up the entire tithe within the city gates and share it ALL with a certain group of people God had qualified to receive the tithe on His behalf. These are mentioned in verse 29, "And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." During this third year tithe, the landowner was not to participate in consuming the tithe. He was to give it all away. These four groups were specifically pointed out by God to receive tithes. But do you know what else? They were also exempt from paying tithes!

If I were a Levite, I had no inheritance of land ownership. That means I would have no means to pay a tithe, except for the fact that I was required to give a tenth of the best that I received from the land owner to the Levite priests. For the other three groups, no tithe was required of them at all. A stranger was someone who was not born a Hebrew, but converted over to Judaism. However, he could not own land in Israel. If he couldn't own land, he wasn't allowed to tithe! The fatherless, or orphan, had no inheritance of land ownership because, he or she had no father to pass down land unto them. The same goes for the widow. She had no lands for herself either. She either lived alone, or with another family who didn't qualify to own land, or was taken care of by her son(s). Naomi and Ruth would be a good example. 

At the beginning of the fourth year the cycle resumed as it had the first two years. At the end of the sixth year, the tithe reverted back to what they did during the end of the third year. What this means is, there was a seven year tithe cycle. But what about the seventh year? I'm glad I asked! Even though it was commanded that no tithing take place in the seventh year, it still was a part of the 'cycle.'

Leviticus 25:3-5, "Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof. 4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land." 

What does this mean? Simple! It means that on the seventh year there was a decree from God not to plow or reap anything from the land. It was a time of rest. A sabbatical if you will. No Harvest, no tithe! This brings forth an interesting observation. Most people who tithe in an Institutional 'Church' tithe week after week, month after month and year after year ~ EVERY YEAR! That includes every seventh year, does it not?

Most people who tithe are taught that their field of work (occupation) translates over to an Israeli landowner's occupation, and that our occupation's income is equivalent to the landowners crops or herds. They are also saying that the land of Israel somehow transposes itself to us in America for the purpose of tithing. This is plug-in reasoning, I know, but this is one way the clergy rationalizes to get people on board to tithe. One Problem this type of thinking presents is that the farmer in Israel only harvested thrice a year! Once in the Spring and twice in the Summer/Fall. Let me ask a question. How many harvests do we reap a year? If we view our income as our "crops" to be harvested, isn't it EVERY WEEK for most of us? If we are to tithe the way the LORD God prescribes, and commands, why don't we rest from our 'field of work' and refrain from tithing every seventh year? I'll let'cha chew on that one for a bit...

And here's another question for us; do we give all of our ten percent to strangers, fatherless, widows and Levites every three years? If not, why not? Isn't this the way God commands us to tithe? Do we tithe in the form of agricultural Products; and if not, why not? Isn't that the way God commanded His people to tithe? Where did we get the liberty to try and live one part of the law on tithing and totally ignore other parts? God says that if we have broken one part of the law, we have broken ALL of the law. If we are not under the law (which we are not) then why are we trying to live a part of the law that doesn't apply to us? One more question before I close this segment. Who said that we are supposed to place our feet in the sandals of Hebrew national landowners in the O.T. in the first place? Why are we to assume that their situation is the same as ours? Could it be that the clergy has taught this to their parishioners for generations just to keep the money rolling in?

If we are not tithing as the LORD prescribed, then Deuteronomy 26:13 claims we are transgressing against God. Why would fulfilling one part of the law on tithing and ignoring another part be acceptable to God? Answer: It isn't! But I have a sneaky suspicion it is perfectly okay with the clergy who run an Institutional 'Church.' When a preacher teaches tithing, why don't they bring up these inconsistencies? Answer: Because it would threaten their very livelihood and career. They'd actually have to get a real job to support their families. They're not supposed to gain a living off of the church in the first place. They are stationary and can work a local job. The clergy has made a Profession out of what is supposed to be a ministry. But, that's another lesson. See my post, 'Should Pastors Be Paid?' for a detailed run-down on that one. 

Not all pastors are greedy. They have a true and fervent heart for their flocks. Some actually will gladly forgo their paychecks and work a real job to keep their 'Church' family in tact. These men are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why? Because they are in a model of 'Church' that isn't authentic to Christ's model for church. If the Institutional 'Church' isn't Jesus' model, then the man who is called, 'the pastor' is a pastor of a false 'Church.' If the 'Church' is a counterfeit, the pastor is just imitating a true pastor of Christ's design. They are urged to search the Scriptures to see what form of church Christ began and still builds. It isn't an Institutional style modeled after the World's Religious System. We are a home based design free of the tithe and paying a man who should be feeding us without charge.

These scenarios bring up some interesting questions of reason. It seems to me that instead of trying to explain away all of these inconsistencies for the modern day tither, maybe we should just follow what Jesus says about His ekkelsia and realize He never intended His people to go into debt by paying for building Projects, Programs and payrolls. Just think for a moment. If a pastor never wanted a salary or a building, we need never pay a tithe. We don't NEED buildings. We have homes. We don't NEED to pay a pastor. Shepherding is NOT a Profession. And we do not NEED to follow legalistic man-made doctrines. Jesus freed us from all of that nonsense within the safety of His authentic New Covenant home based church.

So, just to encapsulate the Tithe Cycle for us, it is this: The first and second years are to be celebrated with the tither's own family and the Levites. The tithe is always to be consumed before the LORD. The third and sixth year tithes are to be wholly given to the Levite, orphans, strangers and widows within the tither's local city's gates. The fourth and fifth years are to be celebrated as years one and two. In the seventh year, there is no tithe, as the land is in it's sabbatical (year of rest). The tithes could only be derived from the seed of the land (within Israel's borders), whether Produce or livestock. The tithe must be organic (living) for it to be accepted as a tithe prescribed by the LORD God. Non living items such as money, goods, and those derived from the waters are considered 'Offerings,' NOT a tithe. No imported foods are allowed in. The only two classes of people ordered to tithe are the Hebrew landowner and the Levite. The stranger, orphan, and widow received tithes from the local landowner and were also exempted from tithing. Others like, fishermen, carpenters and all other non farmers and craftsmen of any occupation (including we here in the States) are exempt from tithing as well if they did not own and farm their land. It was an agricultural festival. Today's economy in America does not translate into the Israeli's command to tithe. 

I hope this adequately explains what the tithe cycle is and who was exempted from tithing. For more on the tithe, I urge the reader to investigate the other articles related to the tithe in this blog and begin with taking the 'Tithe Test' found to the left in the Post Titles section. Thanks for reading and visiting ChurchPros.


  1. Very interesting article. May I ask your source for the statemenet "tithes could only be derived from the seed of the land (within Israel's borders)"?

  2. I wish I had more time to show in detail why it was important that the tithe came from the borders of Israel, but to try and answer you question adequately I'll begin with referencing Nehemiah 35-37, "And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:
    36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
    37 And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage."

    Five times the word "our" is used to describe, herds, flocks, and offerings, but notice that Scriptures says, "tithes of our ground" in vs 37. It says, "firsfruits of our ground" in vs 35. Certainly he wasn't speaking of another nation."Our" meant Israel.

    The main purpose of a edible tithe was to show God's miraculous ability to increase the seed of the land of Israel year by year. Among other things, His blessings on their land was a testament to Who He is and what He can do.

    The law on tithing was one of the Ceremonial Laws of the Mosaic Law and applied to the Hebrew alone. It wasn't a Moral Law, nor a Judicial Law. Yes, a Moral Law applies to all because God sets the standard for civility. The Judicial Laws in the Mosaic Law only applied to the Jewish nation. Anywhere else would be out of their jurisdiction. The Ceremonial Laws were written to the Hebrew alone.

    If these verses aren't enough to support my assertion that the tithes were derived from the seed of the land within the borders of Israel, it still stands to reason that only farmers (herds/crops) had an inheritance of owning land. The Levites did not. They worked the land, but they didn't own the land.

    God led them to the Promise Land flowing with milk and honey. He didn't lead them to another country other than the one He deemed proper to live, grow crops and herds and raise families.

    It's interesting to note that the Jews of today do not tithe, especially here in the States. I think that is a loud statement.

    I appreciate the question and urge you to read more posts regarding the tithe.

    Thanks and God Bless!

    ~Bro. Bobby

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