OT Tithe System Aligned The Interests Of Priests With Members
Our story begins with the Old Testament, the Jewish Torah, and the three tithes the Jews paid to their nation Israel. A tithe (Strong’s H4643) is first mentioned in Leviticus 27:30 and was an amount of 10 percent. But I have found most Christians, including Christian business owners, are not aware of some facts about the Jewish tithes (i.e., if you don’t have profits, you can’t tithe).
But this is about government malfeasance. Nonfeasance is the failure to act where action is required—willfully or in neglect. Misfeasance is the willful inappropriate action or intentional incorrect action or advice. Malfeasance is the willful and intentional action that injures a party.
The Jewish first tithe (10 percent) went to the Levite priests who were to be trusted Temple functionaries, teachers, and civil servants who supervised the weights and scales and witnessed agreements, i.e., government officials. This first tithe was on the gross revenue of their production, not on their property. The Levites were to teach the Torah content to the whole of Israel (Deut 33:8, 10). For payment of their work, they were not given a land inheritance like the other tribes, but a tithe of 10 percent was the first and best of the whole nation of Israel and was to be their income (Num 18:21). If the priests want to increase their income, they increase Israel’s prosperity.
This first tithe applied no matter the economic status—as Israel prospered or suffered from their production, so did the priests. The priests start Israel’s prosperity cycle teaching truthful, accurate, and correct Biblical wealth creation content. Evidence of this failed pastoral/profession partnership is in the book of Malachi. The priests were corrupt/inept in their handling of Biblical material (Mal 1:6–2:9, Neh 13:1-9), and Israel neglected their tithes and offerings (Mal 3:7-12, Neh 13:10-13). The priests were also to give a tithe of the tithe (Num 18:26; Neh 10:38-39) to the Lord (this is not much different during the time of Jesus when the scribes and Pharisees failed in their tithes, Matt 23:23). These familiar Malachi verses are not, “you can’t out-give God,” this is God telling the priests and the people to both honor God, who is the source of their blessings.
The third Jewish tithe was every third year to help the widows, poor, and the alien (Deut 14:28-29) and all who abide by the laws in their land (Lev 18:26).
However, the Jewish second tithe gets interesting; it was to be totally consumed with a party with God with 10 percent of their production! God wants us to have a party and He is to be invited because He has blessed them in that year, and having their party with Him trusts Him to provide for them in the next year! (Heb 13:5). The Jews were to live and enjoy the fruits of their labors for that year, from what they sowed (production), never on what they had (property).
Deut 14:22-23, 26 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. [emphasis added]
“You may spend the money for whatever you heart desires.” Imagine, the Jews had a party, enjoyed life, with 10 percent of their income from His blessings from that year. Does this sound like God wants us to be “pouting, penny-pinching, and poverty-minded Protestants?” Hardly! And “you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” We’re to rejoice, feel or show great joy or delight, together, with Him. It means God has given us His permission to enjoy His blessing, His prosperity.
This realization to me was profound. In the first place, most Christians I know only know and have heard tons of dreaded sermons, all asking us to “sacrificially tithe” to the church, rarely discussing this second tithe was for a party with God. But this second tithe took on a sinister form when you look at the numbers. The first and second tithes totaled 20 percent, 10 percent went to the government, and the second 10 percent was for a party to be enjoyed with God.
The first tithe was a tax for all of the nation of Israel and was adequate for their government incomes. If the government did it’s job well, the nation prospered and so did the government, it was raises for all. However, if Israel suffered, the priests suffered. But like all money issues, the “love of money is a root of all sorts of evil,” (1 Tim 6:10).
You find that once the government sees that it can begin to whittle away and extract more money from their people, they take. Samuel tells this to the Jews about having a King, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you,” and he proceeds to outline the king’s six “takes” or taxes from the people (1 Sam 8:10-22). I’ve known about the “20 percent” the Jews were tithed, I didn’t think much of it…until I found out the first tithe was to the government, and the second tithe was a party with God. The second tithe was for us to rejoice over being blessed by God. It was not for the government to increase our taxes from 10 percent to over 20 percent which takes away our party and vacation money with God to take for themselves.
In essence, our federal, state, and local governments have stolen our our party time with God; it’s the death of our rejoicing by a thousand taxes, fees, fines, and surcharges by our governments.
The realization of a government Biblical 10 percent (total federal, state, and local) tax takes on a whole new meaning when compared with all of our progressive tax rates exceed 20 percent. When our governments sees itself less as a benefactor who serves others and lives within its means of its Godly 10 percent allotment and more of an extractor who serve themselves, troubles ensue. This government extractor, who has now has racked up over $23.1 TRILLION in debt, has stolen our, and our kids, and grandkids rejoicing with God to the tune of $70,000+ per citizen. Not to mention making and money for Business As Mission (BAM).
So let’s hold our governments accountable and kick out their “It’s all about me!” attitude. Jesus Himself gave us our Biblical view of government in His Word and return to our prosperity by saying, “For My yoke is easy (comfortable, pleasant) and My burden is light” (Matt 11:30). No more government killjoys or spoilsports for us, because prosperity is not about money and taxes, it’s about allowing us to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Prosperity is having a party, time, not toys, with plenty of good experiences with our family and friends, especially when we party with the source of our prosperity—God.
Kevin Cullis is owner of Startups On Main Street, LLC and the author of “HWJDB How Would Jesus Do Business?” and “How to Start a Business: Mac Version.” You can read more of his writings at HWJDB.com and StartupsOnMainStreet.com or attend one of his Bible-based Fish Tank Startups Workshops designed for individuals looking to start and grow Christ-centered businesses.