Archives For November 2009

Tithing in the Bible: 2 Chronicles 31

Corey —  November 30, 2009

       After Deuteronomy 26, tithing is not mentioned in the Bible again until 2 Chronicles 31 – almost 800 years later. This chapter contains the account of how King Hezekiah reestablished the worship of God among the Israelites after a long period of bad kings, rule by other nations, and worship of false Gods. In fact, Ahaz, the king who ruled just before Hezekiah, had shut up the doors to the Temple and began worshiping Baal and other false gods (2 Chronicles 28).

       So as we look at this passage, we have to realize that this is all occurring after a long period of time where the Law of Moses was not taught and the Israelites had not been worshiping God. Hezekiah got some things right and some things wrong as he was leading Israel back to worship God. We’ll see why this is true as we look back at the original commands to tithe in the Law of Moses.

Revival in Jerusalem

       Everything that happens in 2 Chronicles 31 follows the events of chapter 30. Hezekiah had called out to all of Israel asking them to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and worship God. Not everyone came, but the ones who did come celebrated the Passover with great joy. In fact, they decided to spend an extra week celebrating and worshiping God. This was the start of a great revival among the Israelites.

       Chapter 31 picks up by describing how those who observed the Passover in Jerusalem went out and destroyed all the altars and idols of false gods in the areas that belonged to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. After they went home, Hezekiah took the first step to reestablishing the worship of God at the Temple by appointing the priests and Levites to their divisions to serve at the Temple.

       Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites after their divisions, every man according to his service, both the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the camp of Yahweh.

2 Chronicles 31:2 (WEB)

       After this, he sends out a command to those living in Jerusalem to give the tithe.

       4 Moreover he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of Yahweh. 5 As soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. 6 The children of Israel and Judah, who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated to Yahweh their God, and laid them by heaps. 7 In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.

2 Chronicles 31:4-7 (WEB)

       The “portion of the priests and Levites” is referring to the tithe that went the Levites and the tithe of the tithes that the Levites gave to the priests (as we learned when we looked at Numbers 18). The command in Numbers 18 applied to all of Israel, but here we only see the Israelites in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside (Judah) bringing in the tithe.

       Again, we see that the tithe consisted only of food items and never money. Otherwise, the tithe would not have ended for that year after the harvest was over (the seventh month). The Israelites would have kept bringing money from their income in all year round. But as we know, the tithe was never on an Israelite’s income – it was only on the increase in their crops and their herds or flocks (again, check out Numbers 18).

The Temple Was Not the Storehouse for All the Tithes

       The command that Hezekiah gave to resume tithing did not go out to all of the Israelites – only to those living in Jerusalem. It then spread to those living near Jerusalem in the region of Judah – but those Israelites only brought the tithe of the cattle, sheep, and the things they had dedicated or vowed to the Lord. So the things that made up the heaps were only a small portion of what the entire nation of Israel would have ever tithed, and even this small amount was too much to fit into the Temple at Jerusalem. In fact, it was so much that Hezekiah had to have rooms prepared in the Temple to hold all the extra.

       8 When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed Yahweh, and his people Israel. 9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.

       10 Azariah the chief priest, of the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since people began to bring the offerings into the house of Yahweh, we have eaten and had enough, and have left plenty: for Yahweh has blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.”

       11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of Yahweh; and they prepared them.

2 Chronicles 31:8-11 (WEB)

       Many people who use Malachi 3:8-10 to teach tithing for Christians explain that Israel was commanded to bring all the tithes into the storehouse at the Temple. They then say that today’s church buildings are the modern-day equivalent of the Temple, so Christians should bring all their tithes to the church building. However, this is not correct for five main reasons:

  1. The Israelites were to give the tithes to the Levites. Then the Levites were to give the tithe of the tithes to the priests and take the tithe of the tithes to the Temple (the place God chose). (See Numbers 18 and Nehemiah 10:34-39)

  3. The Temple in Jerusalem was never meant to hold all the tithes of Israel. It was designed only to hold the tithe of the tithes. It would not have been large enough to hold a tenth of all the agricultural produce within the land of Israel.

  5. Most of the Levites were not priests, and they all (the priests and the Levites) served in one week shifts at the Temple. So at most they were working at the Temple two weeks out of the year. The rest of the time they lived in the Levitical cities and their suburbs working at their regular jobs just like everyone else.

  7. The tithes would have gone to the Levites where they lived (in the Levitical cities – not the Temple). The Levites would have then taken the tithe of the tithes to the Temple to support the priests and the Levites who were serving at the Temple during their shifts.

  9. The tithe as it is described in the Bible does not apply to Christians.

       All of this will become clearer when we study the verses about tithing in Nehemiah, but you can even see it in 2 Chronicles:

       15 Under him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their office of trust, to give to their brothers by divisions, as well to the great as to the small: 16 besides those who were reckoned by genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even everyone who entered into the house of Yahweh, as the duty of every day required, for their service in their offices according to their divisions; 17 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of the priests by their fathers’ houses, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their offices by their divisions; 18 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their office of trust they sanctified themselves in holiness.

       19 Also for the sons of Aaron the priests, who were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every city, there were men who were mentioned by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all who were reckoned by genealogy among the Levites.

2 Chronicles 31:15-19 (WEB)
emphasis mine

       Like I said, we’ll see this better as we study Nehemiah. Then we’ll be able to understand Malachi 3:8-10 in the correct context (and by looking at the whole book of Malachi rather than just a few verses).

       If you were caught off guard by the idea that the Levites did not spend all their time at the Temple, take some time to check out Joshua 21:1-45, Nehemiah 10:37, and Nehemiah 13:10. You can find more proof that the Levites had other jobs (besides ministering at the Temple) by looking at 1 Chronicles 23:3-5.

Stay Tuned…

       We’ve seen here again that the Biblical tithe was quite different from what tithing advocates teach today. We’re going to keep seeing this as we examine the rest of the Scriptures on tithing. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss anything!

       When we looked at Numbers 18, we found that the tithe only consisted of agricultural products (crops grown and animals raised) and was not based on an Israelite’s income (in money). We also found that only a tithe of the tithes went to the priests, while the remaining nine-tenths of the tithe belonged to the Levites. Today, we’re going to look at three places in Deuteronomy where the tithe is discussed in more detail, and we’ll find some more surprising things that aren’t taught by tithing advocates.

       These passages are also sometimes used to determine that there may have been one or two tithes in addition to the tithe that supported the Levites and the priests. However, I’m personally not sure it’s clear exactly how many tithes the Israelites paid and it doesn’t really matter. These passages contain enough clear teaching to refute anyone who would try to teach that Christians should be tithing 10% of their gross income to their church.

Statutes & Ordinances

       Tithing is mentioned three times in Deuteronomy 12, but first we’re going to look at how this chapter begins. It starts out by making it clear that the things which follow are for Israel and apply in the land of Israel.

       These are the statutes and the ordinances which you shall observe to do in the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth.

Deuteronomy 12:1 (WEB)

       Moses is about to explain the statutes and ordinances that God has given him to set before the Israelites. Many of these statutes and ordinances include things that Christians do not even consider maintaining today, such as the dietary laws. But some believe that the tithe is somehow different and stands apart from all the other statutes and ordinances contained in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Law. However, Moses makes no distinction between the statutes on tithing and those concerning anything else. They were all statutes and ordinances that God commanded the Israelites to follow.

       We cannot choose to enforce one of these laws and neglect all the others. But how many tithing advocates have you heard teach that Christians are required to keep all the Laws of Moses? Even the Jewish Christians did not impose such requirements on the Gentile Christians (in Acts).

Eating the Tithe

       Later in Deuteronomy 12, we see that Moses instructs the Israelites to eat their tithes in the place God chooses.

       5 But to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even to his habitation you shall seek, and there you shall come; 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock: 7 and there you shall eat before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 (WEB)

       This is then followed by a passage explaining that the tithes and offerings were to be taken to the place God chooses after the Israelites pass over the Jordon. This passage also repeats the command about rejoicing before the Lord after bringing the tithes.

       10 But when you go over the Jordan, and dwell in the land which Yahweh your God causes you to inherit, and he gives you rest from all your enemies around you, so that you dwell in safety; 11 then it shall happen that to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the wave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow to Yahweh. 12 You shall rejoice before Yahweh your God, you, and your sons, and your daughters, and your male servants, and your female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you.

Deuteronomy 12:10-12 (WEB)

       And later on we see yet another passage that discusses eating the tithe before the Lord in the place He chooses. Additionally, the following passage indicates that all the Israelites ate of the tithe along with the Levites.

       17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or of your new wine, or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, nor the wave offering of your hand; 18 but you shall eat them before Yahweh your God in the place which Yahweh your God shall choose, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your male servant, and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates: and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God in all that you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 12:17-18 (WEB)

       Then in chapter 14 we see the command to tithe repeated once again and with it the command to eat the tithe before the Lord.

       22 You shall surely tithe all the increase of your seed, that which comes forth from the field year by year. 23 You shall eat before Yahweh your God, in the place which he shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, the tithe of your grain, of your new wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock; that you may learn to fear Yahweh your God always.

       24 If the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which Yahweh your God shall choose, to set his name there, when Yahweh your God shall bless you; 25 then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose: 26 and you shall bestow the money for whatever your soul desires, for cattle, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (WEB)

       Verses 24 through 26 talk about selling the tithe and converting it to money if it’s too much to carry to the place God has chosen. But once the Israelites arrived at the place God had chosen, they were to use the money they got from selling their tithe to buy food and drink to eat before the Lord and celebrate. Clearly, money was used during this time, but it was never considered to be part of the the tithe. The Israelites never paid a tithe on their money or income – they tithed on the increase they had in their crops, herds, and flocks.

       Now don’t you find these passages quite strange when compared with the modern teaching of tithing? Tithing advocates often condemn those who do not pay a full 10% to their church – but God commanded the Israelites to eat their tithes in His presence. Tithing is taught as 10% of your gross (or sometimes net) income – but God commanded the Israelites to only tithe the increase of their fields (crops) and animals (herds or flocks). Israelites who did not farm or raise animals would have never paid the tithe as it is described in the Law of Moses.

The Levites, the Strangers, the Orphans, and the Widows

       Finally, we’re going to look at two places where the tithe seems to have been used to specifically care for the poor. Some take this to mean that the normal tithe was kept in each Israelite city every third year to help care for the poor, while others believe this was a separate tithe (a full 10%) that was only paid every third year for the same purpose. Either way, it doesn’t matter for our purposes. The point here is that at least every third year the tithe (as described in the Bible) went specifically to the poor and needy.

       27 The Levite who is within your gates, you shall not forsake him; for he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 28 At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates: 29 and the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the foreigner living among you, and the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Deuteronomy 14:27-29 (WEB)

       We also see this mentioned in chapter 26:

       When you have made an end of tithing all the tithe of your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the foreigner, to the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your gates, and be filled.

Deuteronomy 26:12 (WEB)

       The point I’m raising here is not whether there was an additional tithe (or even two additional tithes, some think the tithe I was talking about before was the “festival tithe”). The point is that the tithe went to care for the poor and needy in the communities of the Israelites. This included the Levites (most of whom merely served to care for the Tent of Meeting or the Temple and were not priests), the strangers, the orphans, and the widows. If this was an important part of God’s command to the Israelites concerning the tithe, why is it not repeated when Christians are taught that they should be tithing?

       The idea that those who gave the tithe were to eat it and the idea that the tithe didn’t just go to support the priests, Levites, and the Temple (the church?) are inconsistent with modern teaching that supports tithing as a requirement for Christians. But clearly the Scriptures teach these ideas in regard to the tithe.

Keep Learning!

       We still have several more verses about tithing to cover before we’ll have fully examined tithing in the Bible. If you want to keep learning what the Bible has to say about tithing, make sure you sign up to get free updates to Provident Planning.

       Also, I want to take this chance to say that just because Christians aren’t under the Mosaic Law of tithing does not mean that we should not give. There are clear New Testament passages which indicate the kind of giving Christians should be doing and the fact that we should support those who labor in preaching and teaching the Word. But these New Covenant giving principles supersede the Old Testament tithe. Therefore, those New Covenant giving principles should be taught and the tithe should not be taught as a requirement for Christians.

       As always, please share your thoughts and comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

The Power of Contentment in Christ

Corey —  November 24, 2009

       We discussed what contentment is and how to find it over the last two weeks. Defining contentment as “when what you have fulfills what you desire” gives us a very straightforward idea of contentment and how to get it. But the problem is that kind of contentment can be easily changed by your circumstances in life. If you lose the things you have, you are no longer content because that definition only considers your material things.

       There is, however, a way to find true contentment – contentment that lasts through any change in your circumstances. I’m talking about contentment that triumphs over anything that might happen in your life – good or bad. This kind of contentment is completely independent of what happens to you on Earth, and it only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

How Christ Brings True Contentment

       To understand how Christ brings true contentment to those who believe in Him, we must grasp these four concepts:

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ gives us eternal life with God.

  3. Eternal life with God is far greater than anything we can imagine for ourselves in our life on Earth.

  5. So we put our hope in Christ and the eternal life He gives – not in the things of this world.

  7. Then Christ can give us true contentment that conquers any circumstance we may face, but we must continue to focus on our hope in Him and weigh everything against the surpassing value of our eternal life with God.

Faith in Jesus Gives Eternal Life

       All of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself testify to the fact that if we believe in Him we will have our sins forgiven and receive eternal life with Him in Heaven. Understanding how Jesus can bring true contentment to deal with the circumstances in our life requires that we accept this truth. Without it, you will never know how to find true contentment in Christ.

Eternal Life with God Outweighs All Else

       Life with God in Heaven will be unimaginably better than anything we can experience in this life. There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more suffering, and no more separation from God. We will be able to experience the presence of God at all times and behold His glory. The finest things on Earth cannot compare with what we will have in Heaven. There are no words to describe the surpassing greatness of eternal life with God over life in this world.

Our Hope Is in Christ & Eternal Life with Him

       Because we know that eternal life in Heaven with God will be so much better than anything we can have on Earth, we put our hope in Christ and the salvation we receive through Him. Christians find no happiness or contentment in anything the world can offer – we look only to Jesus and the reward that waits for us in Heaven.

       Our time on Earth is not a chance to accumulate all we can, experience all the best things life has to offer, or to make a name for ourselves. Instead, we view this life as a chance to serve God before we are called home – to our true home – by spreading the good news about Jesus Christ and by obeying His teachings. Our success is not measured by our jobs, our wealth, or our fame. Success for Christians is measured by how closely we walk with the Lord and imitate His life.

       We don’t look at our circumstances to determine whether we are happy or content. Our one desire is to know God, and our faith in Christ fulfills that one desire. Everything else is counted as nothing when compared to the glory of knowing Him.

True Contentment in Christ

       Once we fully believe and practice those three things, Christ can give us true contentment that can conquer any circumstance we will ever face. This is what Paul spoke about in Philippians 4:

       11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13 (WEB)

       The power of Christ, the salvation He provides, and the contentment He gives overcome the desires of our flesh and the cravings of the world. Jesus fulfills all our needs to the point that even when we lack in this life we can still be content. We find the strength to have peace in all circumstances through Him. And that’s how Jesus brings us true contentment.

Do You Want That Kind of Contentment?

       So tell me – what kind of contentment do you want? Do you want the kind of contentment that disappears whenever you see something you want and can’t have? Or do you want the kind of contentment that brings you peace and joy in all circumstances – even in the face of death?

       To have contentment that is never affected by your circumstances requires that you go to Christ. You must seek Him and learn to trust Him. You must continually focus on the hope you have in Him and the unspeakable riches that come through eternal life with God. If you take your eyes off of Him, then the worries of this life will choke you and you’ll find yourself in discontentment once again.

       You have the choice to experience true contentment right now. It is within your grasp. If it’s been eluding you all your life, you now know how to find it. Come to Jesus. Take His yoke. And experience the peace that surpasses all understanding and will guard your heart and thoughts in all circumstances. I pray that you will find contentment in Christ and know what it means to have all your needs fulfilled by Him.

       How has the power of contentment in Christ affected you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to sign up for free updates to Provident Planning to learn more about God’s plan for your finances.

       The next time we see a discussion of tithing after Leviticus 27:30-33 is in Numbers 18. This chapter in the book of Numbers details the duties and support of the priests and the Levites. It contains the specific statutes of God which established the tithe for the support of Israel’s priests and Levites. (There were two other tithes which the people of Israel had to make, but we’ll look at those when we get there.)

       Since this is the place in God’s Word where the tithe that supported the priests and Levites is instituted, we should look at it for the foundation of the purpose and requirements of the tithe. What you’ll learn may surprise you.

The Priesthood of Aaron

       Numbers 18 begins by making it clear that God was speaking specifically to Aaron and the line of priests that would follow his bloodline and his father’s bloodline. Only Israelites who came from the line of Aaron were allowed to be priests. Only those priests were allowed to draw near to worship God. Even the Levites, the only Israelites allowed to minister to the priests and take care of the Tent of Meeting (or Temple), were not allowed to come near the altar of God or they would die.

       1 Yahweh said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your fathers’ house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2 Your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you: but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep your commands, and the duty of all the Tent: only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, that they not die, neither they, nor you. 4 They shall be joined to you, and keep the responsibility of the Tent of Meeting, for all the service of the Tent: and a stranger shall not come near to you.

Numbers 18:1-4 (WEB)

       All the commands that follow in this chapter are specifically for Aaron, the priests, and the Levites. But we know that when Jesus died the veil in the Temple was torn in two – symbolizing the fact that Jesus’ death and the sanctification He brings allows all of us to draw near and worship God without fear of death. The priesthood of Aaron has been replaced by a priesthood of believers and these statutes no longer apply.

The Maintenance of the Priests

       The next section (Numbers 18:8-19) discusses the first part of how the priests and their families were to be maintained and fed. All of the sacrificial offerings could only be eaten by the priests and only in the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The families of the priests were not allowed to eat those things. However, the first fruits of the oil, grain, and wine, all vow offerings, the firstborn animals, the redemption money of the firstborn children and the firstborn of unclean animals, the wave offerings, and the heave offerings could all be used to feed and care for the families of the priests and could be eaten anywhere.

No Inheritance

       In exchange for the right to those various offerings, God commanded that the priests were not allowed to receive any kind of inheritance or portion of the land in Israel:

       Yahweh said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.”

Numbers 18:20 (WEB)

       One of the conditions of receiving the offerings and tithes was that they could no longer own or inherit land. This same restriction is placed on the entire tribe of Levi later in verses 23 and 24. This is why the Levites were not assigned any portion of the land of Israel when it was divided among the tribes (in Joshua 18-21).

The Levites Received the Tithe of Israel

       In the next four verses, we see a very clear indication that the Levites received the tithe of Israel and not the priests.

       21 “To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the Tent of Meeting. 22 Henceforth the children of Israel shall not come near the Tent of Meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the Tent of Meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations; and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a wave offering to Yahweh, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance: therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”

Numbers 18:21-24 (WEB)

       God gave the Levites the tithe of Israel in return for their service to the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The tithe as we think of it was for the care of the servants of the Temple and not the priests. Obviously, this has huge implications for those who believe Christians are under the tithe of the Old Testament.

The Priests Only Received a Tithe of the Tithes

       The final section of Numbers 18 describes how the Levites were to handle the tithe they received from the rest of the Israelites.

       25 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a wave offering of it for Yahweh, a tithe of the tithe. 27 Your wave offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 Thus you also shall offer a wave offering to Yahweh of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel; and of it you shall give Yahweh’s wave offering to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all your gifts you shall offer every wave offering of Yahweh, of all its best, even the holy part of it out of it.’

       30 “Therefore you shall tell them, ‘When you heave its best from it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the increase of the threshing floor, and as the increase of the winepress. 31 You shall eat it in every place, you and your households: for it is your reward in return for your service in the Tent of Meeting. 32 You shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have heaved from it its best: and you shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, that you not die.’”

Numbers 18:25-32 (WEB)

       This passage contains four major points that must be understood about tithing:

  1. Only the Levites received the full tithe from the Israelites.

  3. The priests only received a tithe of the tithes – which would have been 1% of all the agricultural increase from Israel.

  5. The Levites kept the rest of the tithes – which would have been 9% of all the agricultural increase from Israel. They were allowed to eat it anywhere and use it for their families. It was their reward for their service to the Tent of Meeting/Temple.

  7. The tithes were only food products – never money. Silver, gold, and money (shekels) were commonly used but were never considered part of the tithe. Only the agricultural increase of Israel (crops grown and animals raised) made up the tithe.

       As you can see, this chapter alone flies in the face of all modern teaching that requires Christians to tithe. We don’t require any of the other offerings or sacrifices described in the Old Testament. We substitute money for food when it was never used in the tithe. The priests of the Temple only received 1% – not 10%. The rest (the other 9%) went to take care of the Levites as a reward for their service to the Temple. And it’s clear that all of these statutes applied specifically to Israel – to the extent that modern Jews do not even tithe.

Stay Tuned!

       We still have several more Scriptures to examine before we’ll have the full picture on tithing, but it’s becoming clear that the modern teaching of tithing (10% of your gross income going to the church, mostly to support preachers) as a requirement for Christians cannot be supported through the Scriptures that even instituted tithing in Israel. Christians are under much different principles of giving as outlined in the New Covenant. If you’re interested in learning more, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. And as always, feel free to leave a comment below!

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 3

Corey —  November 20, 2009

       Last month, I posted my first article detailing how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. As promised, here is a summary of our activity and costs for month 3. First, let’s check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at one and a half weeks old:

Paul with Bambi at one and a half weeks old

       Here he is at two months old:

Paul & Bambi - 2 Months Old

       And here he is today at three months old:

Paul & Bambi - 3 Months Old

       As you can see, he’s already grown a good bit, but he’s still not much more than a couple steaks and a few hamburgers.

A Lot Less Time, A Little Less Money

       The biggest change from last month to this month is the amount of time I have to spend taking care of Bambi. As of last month, we had spent a total of 30 hours caring for him over two months. This month only required 6 hours of my time which included feeding him, unloading hay and straw, and cleaning out his stall. It only takes me about 5 minutes to feed him now and I only need to do it once a day. (This is in contrast to the 15 minute feedings twice a day that he needed while he was on the bottle.)

       While our total costs have increased by $71.35 this month, it’s important to note that I bought more hay and straw than Bambi needed for this month. We’ll still have quite a bit left for next month, so our costs for December will be quite a bit lower. Here’s what we spent this month:

  • Calf Feed – $31.35

  • Hay – $31.00

  • Straw – $9.00

  • Total Spent – $71.35

  • Time – 6 hours

       And here are our total costs over the past three months:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!

  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00

  • Milk Replacer – $45.54

  • Miscellaneous – $39.90

  • Calf Feed – $42.19

  • Hay – $31.00

  • Straw – $9.00

  • Total Spent – $183.63

  • Time – 36 hours

       So after three months we’ve spent a total of $183.63 and 36 hours raising a cow for beef. I doubt the total cost will increase by much over the next month, and I expect the total time to stay the same. I should note that I have not included the cost of water for Bambi because we have our own well and the cost of electricity to run the pump is negligible. He currently drinks about 3-4 gallons a day right now. Even if you have to pay for your own water, the total cost wouldn’t amount to much over Bambi’s entire life unless you’re buying bottled water.

       That’s it for this month. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to raise a cow for beef!

       Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “a penny saved is a penny earned”. And others have discovered that a penny saved is more than a penny earned. But did you know a penny saved can be worth nearly two pennies earned? Before you dismiss money-saving activities as “not worth your time”, you need to consider just how much of your earnings goes to taxes.

If You’re Not Self-Employed…

       If you’re not self-employed, you’ll pay your marginal federal income tax rate, 7.65% for FICA, plus any applicable state or local income taxes on any money you earn. Add all of these up and you’ll get a total tax rate anywhere from 17.65% up to 51.65%. You may also have to pay sales tax on the things you buy (as opposed to making or doing them yourself).

       The chart below shows just how much a dollar you earn is worth after taxes depending on your marginal federal tax rate, FICA, and state and local income and sales taxes. I only went up to the 25% tax bracket on the federal side, and I used the national average rates for the state and local income and sales taxes.

Not Self-Employed Tax Rates

       Most people will probably fall in the 15% federal tax bracket. If you’ve got state & local income taxes and sales taxes and you’re in the 15% federal bracket, then every dollar you can save is equal to $1.49 if you had earned it. You lose $0.29 to taxes from every dollar you earn, and then you’ll pay another 6% sales tax (on average) when you spend the money. In this case, a penny saved is worth 1.5 pennies earned.

If You’re Self-Employed…

       Entrepreneurs have the extra burden of the self-employment tax to pay on their earned dollars. However they do get to take a tax deduction for one-half of the self-employment (SE) taxes, so their SE tax rate works out to 14.13%. So a self-employed person could automatically lose anywhere from 24.13% to 58.13% in federal, SE, state, and local income taxes for every dollar they earn. And they’ll still have to pay any applicable sales tax on top of that. The high-earning self-employed people can easily say “a penny saved is two pennies earned”.

       I put together a chart for self-employed people similar to the one above. The only difference is the substitution of the SE tax for the FICA tax.

Self Employed Tax Rates

       As you can see, a dollar saved is almost worth two dollars earned for someone in the 25% federal bracket who has to pay state and local income and sales taxes. They’ll lose $0.45 to taxes on every dollar they earn, and then they’ll pay another 6% sales tax when they spend the money that’s left over.

Why This Matters

       Realizing how much you pay in taxes is key in figuring out if it’s worth it to do something yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. You’ve got to know your after-tax hourly rate to be able to compare it to how much you’d save by doing it yourself.

       For instance, let’s go back to the first chart for people who aren’t self-employed. If your federal tax rate is 15% and you have state and local income taxes of 6%, you’re going to lose almost $0.30 to taxes (including FICA) for every dollar you earn. That means if you’re getting paid $20/hour you’re only taking home $14/hour after taxes for each extra hour you work.

       Now let’s say you can pay $25 to have your oil changed, or you can do it yourself for $13 (a savings of $12) plus your time. If it takes you 15 minutes, your hourly rate for doing it yourself is $48/hour. If it takes you 30 minutes, you’re saving $24/hour. And even if it takes you 45 minutes, you’ll still save the equivalent of $16/hour. Now compare that to your after-tax hourly rate from your job ($14/hour), and you can easily see that it makes sense (by the numbers) to change your oil yourself.

       You can apply this logic to any number of money-saving activities to see if it makes sense to do it yourself. In the case above, anything that saves you at least $0.23/minute you spend doing it is worth your time. So taking 10 minutes to make an extra stop at a different grocery store can be a smart financial choice if you’re going to save at least $2.30.

       Understanding that saving money can be more effective than earning it will also help you realize the importance of being frugal. I’m not saying that being frugal is better than earning more money, but it’s a powerful tool and you’d be foolish to refuse using it. Combining frugality with earning more will help you get out of debt, save more, or give more.

How Much Is a Dollar Saved Worth to You?

       Because this greatly depends on your tax rates, I’ve created a little calculator below that you can use to figure out how much a dollar saved is worth to you. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments!

*Note: Click the ‘Click to Edit’ button to use the calculator with your own numbers.

       We’ve looked at Abram’s example and Jacob’s example of tithing, which are the only two instances we have in the Bible of tithing before the Mosaic Law. Now we’re going to start looking at tithing as it is defined and laid out in the Law. I’m looking at the verses on tithing as they appear in the Bible, so today we’re going to look at Leviticus 27:30-33:

       30 “‘All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is Yahweh’s. It is holy to Yahweh. 31 If a man redeems anything of his tithe, he shall add a fifth part to it. 32 All the tithe of the herds or the flocks, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to Yahweh. 33 He shall not search whether it is good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he changes it at all, then both it and that for which it is changed shall be holy. It shall not be redeemed.’”

Leviticus 27:30-33 (WEB)

It Is Holy to Yahweh (the Lord)

       Many people look at these verses and determine that since the tithe is “holy to the Lord” we are required to pay it. However, if we’re going to use that as the standard for determining which Old Testament laws we should keep, we don’t want to leave anything out. Here are just a few other things we should be doing if we’re required to do anything that is “holy to the Lord” in the Old Testament:

  • Make our grain and sin offerings (Leviticus 2:1-3 and Leviticus 6:25-29)

  • Make our trespass offerings (Leviticus 7:1-6)

  • Keep and do all the other things God commanded that were holy, including the feasts, holy days, the sanctuary (as it was described in the Old Testament), a crown for the high priest, the clothes for the priests (linen garments), and the fruit a tree produces in its fourth year (Leviticus 23:1-44, Leviticus 8:9, Leviticus 16:4, and Leviticus 19:24)

  • Keep all the statutes in the Law so we can be holy to the Lord (Leviticus 20:7-8)
  •        There are many other things besides the tithe that were considered holy to the Lord in the Old Testament. If we’re going to say that we must keep the tithe because “it is holy to the Lord”, then we must also keep all the other things that are “holy to the Lord”. That phrase is common throughout the Law and was used to signify the importance that the Israelites should keep the Law that they were under. Unless Christians are going to begin keeping all of the Law, we cannot pick and choose certain aspects to enforce based simply on the phrase “it is holy to the Lord”.

    The Tithe of the Land, Herds, or Flocks

           Only food items are discussed in this passage as being part of the tithe. In fact, as we continue to examine the tithe in the Bible, we’ll see that money and income are never mentioned as items to be tithed. Only crops from the land and animals from herds were used in any of the tithes. This means if you weren’t a farmer, shepherd, or otherwise didn’t grow crops or raise animals then you didn’t pay any kind of tithe as described in the Old Testament. (There are other offerings you would have had to pay, but if you were poor there were provisions for paying a smaller amount.)

    Not the Best Tenth

           Another aspect of this passage that is missed by those who teach that Christians should tithe is the fact that the tithe was not the best tenth. Those who teaching tithing say the tithe should be the first and best 10% of all our increase (not just the crops and animals). But in this passage on tithing we see the exact opposite.

           First, there is no mention of the quality or order in which the crops should be tithed. It’s simply stated as the tithe of the land.

           Second, in the section on herds and flocks, the animal that must be tithed is the tenth one to pass under the rod (shepherd’s staff) – not the first. If an Israelite only had nine animals in his flock, then he did not tithe any of them according to the Law.

           Finally, those who had more than ten animals were forbidden from picking which one should be tithed. It had to be the tenth one to pass under the rod. He couldn’t change it regardless of whether it was bad or good. This means he couldn’t even choose to give God the best as the tenth animal – God told the Israelites that it must be the tenth animal no matter what.

           Only the Levites were commanded to give the best tenth when they gave the priests the tithe of the tithes. The Levites received the tithes from the people of Israel, and in turn they were to give the best tenth of those tithes to the priests who served at the temple. We’ll look at that in the next part of this series, but that’s the only time anyone in Israel was commanded to give the best tenth and it only applied to the Levites.

    Get Free Updates!

           We’re already beginning to see that the tithe as it is taught to Christians today is not even based on the Bible’s definition of the tithe. Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in learning more about what God’s Word says about tithing. If you want to know what the giving requirements are for Christians, I recommend you check out my posts on New Covenant giving principles.

           As always, please leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts about this article.