Get a Fresh Perspective on an Old Practice—Tithing
by Chris Hodges
Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.
Tithing is a simple practice, but one that trips up so many people. The first portion of everything we receive, a tithe as Scripture calls it, belongs to the Lord our God. People usually consider the tithe to be one-tenth of the whole of what we have, but I believe that the tithe is not just a percentage principle but a principle of firsts. It’s an opportunity to declare who means the most to us and what we consider the most important priority in our lives. It’s holy to the Lord, and he alone has the power to bless the rest of what we have.
Some people say that tithing is a “law principle,” something that was instituted during the time of Moses and done away with after Christ’s coming, but we need to realize that this practice shows up at least 2,500 years before the Levitical law was established. I see it first in the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. They each offered God something, and he was pleased with one offering but not with the other. Why? What was the difference? Let’s look at the account and pay attention to the distinction between Cain’s offering, which God did not find acceptable, and Abel’s offering, which God accepted.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (Genesis 4:2-5)
Abel brought the firstborn of his flock; Cain did not bring his first fruits. God cannot accept an offering if it’s not the first portion. We show our respect and appreciation to him by honoring him first.
Growing up, I learned from my dad early on what tithing meant. No matter how much money I received, whether an allowance or a ten dollar bill inside a birthday card, my father always said, “Give the first to God and then think about the rest.” I’ll be honest: I’ve always experienced unexplainable favor in my life with money and material possessions. I believe when we honor God first, he does indeed bless us, not as a quid pro quo transaction, but because he knows where our hearts are. He knows we’re dedicated to advancing his Kingdom with our resources. He knows he’s first in our lives.
God doesn’t want our stuff; he wants you and me.