The Tithe: A Picture of God's Tender Love
A popular bumper sticker, proudly displayed on the chrome of many R.V.s, Lincolns, Cadillac’s, and Gold Wing sidecars reads: "I'm spending my children's inheritance." Have you ever seen it? You probably have. What do you think of it? I am a bit perplexed at how someone could (if it is, indeed, true) enjoy advertising such a fact, but I have a fair idea of why it is so popular. It celebrates what has become a notorious virtue in North American society: selfishness. "I'm spending what I would otherwise leave to my children – on myself. So there!" In our present culture, the fact that we are allowed to do as we wish with our wealth means that our natural priority should be looking out for good old Number One – ourselves. Forget the kids.
A refreshing contrast to this celebration of selfishness is found in Deuteronomy 14:22-29. In this passage, the Israelites are commanded to "set aside a tenth" of their income for the Lord. This tithe was to come from all the produce of their fields, including grain, new wine, oil, and the firstborn of their flocks and herds (see v. 23).
The Tithe Belonged to God
The Israelites were reminded, in giving the tithe, that it was but a token of their whole life: everything belongs to God! He has redeemed his people from slavery and brought them into a glorious inheritance.
He has redeemed us with the precious blood of his Son. He owns us. As we give to him, we thankfully declare that all we have belongs to him.
What is perhaps most striking about this passage in Deuteronomy, though, is not simply that the Lord commands the tithe. It is not striking or unusual that we should give a tithe, either. Jesus is worthy of all that we have, and more besides. What makes the refreshing contrast to the celebration of selfishness in our day is this: God spends the tithe – on us! Consider verses 23-26:
Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and 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… You and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
God commands the people to bring an offering and then tells them to enjoy the benefits of that offering in his presence. He spends his offerings, which he richly deserves, on his people.
He is like a father who is given a birthday gift by his children. He uses his gift to take his children out to dinner. He does this so that, overwhelmed by his incredible love for us, we may fear him and rejoice.
Think about this the next time you bring your tithe to the Lord. He intends to spend it on you by using it for your blessing and benefit – by using it to supply a ministry that is undertaken on your behalf, so that you may grow in an overwhelming awareness of his love and mercy to you in Jesus Christ. Isn't he wonderful?