We are not obligated to give, nor are we free not to give. Like trust and action (faith and works) freedom and giving go hand in hand, they are intrinsically linked, a complex unity.
Many within the community of faith see the giving of a tenth of their income as an obligation. Or worse, are encouraged to give money they don’t have to fund building projects that have little eternal value. This is an unfortunate consequence of a theological view point that seeks to utilize the financial elements of Israel’s priesthood to generate income for extra-biblical projects, while ignoring the far greater obligations of Israel’s commonwealth and her Temple centric worship system. It seems ludicrous that a community which so fervently professes the faith of Avraham through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) [that is the Church, Ecclesia of Messiah], should completely neglect the actions of Avraham in the matter of tithing/giving.
The first person to present a tenth to HaShem is Avram that is Avraham before he became Avraham. This tenth is of great figurative significance to us as Jews. It is not merely an obligation, it is a symbol of all that is complete in us. To separate our financial wealth from our spirituality is as alien a concept to the observant Jew as the idea of separating soul and spirit. We cannot separate the inseparable. We are not spirits in a material world, we are souls (Nefesh), physical, mental, spiritual, emotional: we are complex and unified beings. We are Souls living in God. It is Hashem in Whom we dwell, He Who has made us echad (one).
Therefore, if we are obligated to give a tenth we are also obligated to practise all of the instructions of the priesthood. However, if we are free to give, we have a High Priest Yeshua, Who, devoid of sin, is able to complete and perfect in us the fullness of all that His priesthood requires. Even ten by ten by ten l’olam va’ed (for worlds eternal).
Gen 14:18 And Melchi-tzedek (My King of righteousness) king of Shalem (Peace, wholeness) brought forth bread (Lechem) and wine (Yayin); and he is priest of El-Elyon (God the most high). Gen 14:19 And He blessed him (Avram), and said: “Blessed be Avram (Father of a people) of El-Elyon (God the most high), Maker of heaven and earth; Gen 14:20 and blessed be El-Elyon (God the most high), Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he (Avram) gave him (Melchi-tzedek) a tenth of all (Hebrews 7:4). –Genesis 14:18-20
The King of righteousness, Who is also the King of peace and the Great High Priest on behalf of all peoples brought bread and wine to the father of trust, which is faith. As High Priest of the Highest God, He spoke the blessing of God over the father of trust saying, “All blessing has come to you from God father of a nation: the God above all gods has delivered your enemies and their wealth into your hands.” After the King had spoken these words the father of a nation responded to the King of righteousness, the King of Peace and Wholeness, the Great High Priest, by giving to him a tenth of all that he possessed, both that which had always been his and that which he had plundered from the nations. This tenth symbolized everything that the father of a nation was, and everything that belonged to him. Ten is a symbol of wholeness and completion, of a promise fulfilled and sustained.
Therefore, Avraham (Then Avram) offered a symbol of all that he was and was to become, all that he possessed and was to possess. He offered this from the riches of his own household and from the households of the nations he had plundered. Therefore, it is a practice that can be entered into by both Israel and the nations. He offered the tenth freely to a Priest Who held position before the priesthood of Aaron, and Who was a type for the Messiah, Who is the Cohen Ha-gadol raba (Great High Priest). Therefore, this free-will tithe holds authority over the obligatory tithe of the temple service and the priesthood of Aaron.
Heb 7:1 For this Melchizedek was king of Salem, kohen of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, Heb 7:2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth of everything. First, by the translation of his name, he is “King of Righteousness”; and then also King of Salem, which is “King of Shalom.” Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life but made like Ben-Elohim, he remains a kohen for all time. Heb 7:4 Now see how great this man is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth out of the plunder. Heb 7:5 Indeed, those sons of Levi who receive the priesthood have, according to Torah, a command to collect a tithe from the people—that is, from their kin, although they have come out of the loins of Abraham. Heb 7:6 But this one—who did not have their genealogy—has collected tithes from Abraham and has blessed him, the one holding the promises. Heb 7:7 Now it is beyond dispute that the lesser is blessed by the greater. Heb 7:8 In one case, dying men receive tithes; but in the other, one about whom it is testified that he lives on. Heb 7:9 Through Abraham even Levi, the one receiving tithes, has paid the tithe, so to speak— Heb 7:10 for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him. Heb 7:11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for based on it the people had been given the Torah), what further need was there for a different kohen to arise—designated according to the order of Melchizedek, not according to the order of Aaron? Heb 7:12 For whenever the priesthood is altered, out of necessity an alteration of law also takes place. Heb 7:13 For the one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. Heb 7:14 For it is clear that our Lord has sprung forth from Judah—concerning this tribe, Moses said nothing about kohanim. Heb 7:15 And it is even more evident, if another kohen arises like Melchizedek— Heb 7:16 one made not by virtue of a Torah requirement of physical descent, but by virtue of the power of an indestructible life. Heb 7:17 For it is testified, “You are a kohen forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Heb 7:18 For on the one hand, a former requirement is set aside because of its weakness and ineffectiveness— Heb 7:19 for Torah made nothing perfect. But on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Heb 7:20 Moreover, it was not without a sworn oath. (Others indeed have become kohanim without a sworn oath, Heb 7:21 but He with an oath—sworn by the One who said to Him, “Adonai has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a kohen forever.’”) Heb 7:22 How much more then has Yeshua become the guarantee of a better covenant. Heb 7:23 Now on the one hand, many have become kohanim, who through death are prevented from continuing in office. Heb 7:24 But on the other hand, the One who does remain forever has a permanent priesthood. Heb 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, always living to make intercession for them. Heb 7:26 For such a Kohen Gadol was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb 7:27 He has no need to offer up sacrifices day by day like those other kohanim g’dolim—first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. For when He offered up Himself, He did this once for all. Heb 7:28 For the Torah appoints as kohanim g’dolim men who have weakness; but the word of the oath, which came after the Torah, appoints a Son—made perfect forever. –Hebrews 7 TLV
All the tithes and offerings of Israel are presented to God through the mediation of the priesthood of Aaron. Thus the Cohen Ha-gadol (High Priest) becomes the symbolic head of that priesthood. These tithes and offerings are intended to feed and clothe the priests of god and provide for the service of worship which is to be perpetuated generationally. Messiah did not cancel out the less effective priesthood of Aaron, rather He perfected it because He was before it. The Great High Priest Yeshua is now the mediator of the tithes and offerings of HaShem, only rather than making them an obligation He has turned them into an opportunity to respond to the freedom He has purchased on our behalf. This is why Melki-tzedek brings bread and wine to Avram. They’re symbols of both provision and redemption. Redemption through the sacrificial blood of Messiah’s death and provision through the life giving blood of His resurrection. Therefore, our tithing and giving are to be offered as a response to this freedom, in the same way that Avram offered his tenth in order to acknowledge the freedom and provision of God. The giving of our tenth, like Avram’s tenth, is a symbolic gesture which acknowledges that everything we are and all that we have belongs to God through Messiah Yeshua.
Mar 12:41 He (Yeshua) sat down opposite the treasury and began watching how the people were putting money into the offering box. Many rich people were putting in a lot. Mar 12:42 Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. Mar 12:43 Calling His disciples over, He said to them, “Amen, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the box! Mar 12:44 For they all put in from their surplus; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had, her whole living.” –Mark 12:41-44 TLV
In this historical account, Yeshua observes a poor widow and illuminates her actions as being the actions of someone who has decided to offer all to God in the practice of worshipping Him.
Avram’s tenth was also a foreshadowing of the widow’s offering. He did not give it to cover a debt or as an obligatory tithe but as a symbolic gesture which said, “All that I have and am belong to you HaShem”.
This teaches us that the value of that which we give is measured by the intention of the heart of the giver. A believer may never tithe to an organized community of faith, instead, he may open his home to strangers, spending more than a tenth on providing for them and caring for their wellbeing. He may be in the practice of giving to fellow believers when they’re in need or lending his possessions to be used by others in the community. By doing this he shows that all that he has belongs to HaShem. Thus he gives to God in all circumstances, surpassing the requirement of the Torah.
The number ten is a symbol of all that we are and all that we have.
2Co 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.
When we look at tithing and giving as loosing, or sacrificing something we are missing the point. A wise farmer keeps aside a portion of the grain in order to seed the soil for the next season’s crop. He doesn’t consider this to be a loss or a sacrifice, rather he considers it a necessary part of the process of sowing and reaping. If he fails to plant enough seed he will also fail to reap a good crop. However, when he practices effective sowing he also reaps the benefit. The giving Rav Shaul is describing in 2 Corinthians is one or reciprocity. God owns all, therefore, He supplies us with all things and allows us to manage that supply. Additionally, rather than keeping the harvest for Himself and hoarding its benefits like a human land owner would do, God gives the fruit of the harvest back to the grower and leaves the grower to decide what he will offer as a token of his gratefulness to God.
Today, there are those who misuse the principal of sowing and reaping to illicit funds from people who have nothing more to give. They encourage believers to mortgage houses and take out loans in order to, “reap” a greater reward. In doing so they bring poverty to the community of believers while they build worthless icons in memory of their so called ministries. This is a grievous sin against the body of Messiah that should not be tolerated. God does not ask us to give from what we don’t have but from what we have.
The Scripture says, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory” not, “I shall supply God’s needs according to my loans and lack of finances.” Those wolves among us, who steal from the poor in order to prosper themselves, may well have turned to the widow whom Yeshua spoke of and said, “If you’ve got a house you should mortgage it, two little coins will not reap the harvest God desires for your life, if you keep sowing so sparingly you’ll become even more accursed by God.” These liars, despicable leeches, false teachers, are condemned men.
2Co 9:7 Let each one give as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion—for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that by always having enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work. 2Co 9:9 As it is written, “He scattered widely, He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 2Co 9:10 Now the One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Rav Shaul (Paul) explains that it is the heart (Lev) intention (the intention of the core being, not the intention of the emotion) that determines the value of the gift. Remember, it already belongs to God. He is a debtor to no one. If we give grudgingly it is as if we hadn’t given at all. Of course, due to the nature of sowing and reaping, we will also fail to benefit from an abundant crop. This is not a punitive action on God’s part, rather it is the natural result of our own actions.
2Co 9:11 You will be enriched in everything for all generosity, which through us brings about thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12 For this service of giving is not only supplying the needs of the kedoshim, but is also overflowing with many thanksgivings to God.
When we give from an understanding of God’s goodness toward us we see God’s provision in all things and are grateful. This in turn inspires us to give to others from the overflow of our own spiritual and physical wealth. Rav Shaul calls this act a “service”, meaning an act of temple worship, a service of the priesthood of all believers. Thus in Messiah, the Great High Priest, we act as priests under His authority. The result is not only blessing and thanks giving among the holy ones (believers), but also an overflow to those around us. This overflow draws people to Messiah, Who reconciles them to God. Thus giving is one of the ways that the Gospel is perpetuated.
2Co 9:13 Because of the evidence of this service, they praise God for the obedience of your affirmation of the Good News of Messiah and for the generosity of your contribution to them and to everyone.
As a result of our giving other believers praise God and give Him the glory due His Name. Our giving affirms our certain hope in the Gospel of the Messiah.
2Co 9:14 And in their prayer for you, they long for you because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 2Co 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! -2 Corinthians 9:6-15 TLV
Our giving is the fruit of the surpassing chesed (grace, mercy) of God which is upon us. It is an act of worship that gives voice to the eternal truth that God’s greatest gift, the gift of His Son, has produced a great harvest of souls. Thus, we praise Him and give thanks to Him.
© 2016 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,