Until tonight, I had thought of tithing as a duty similar to paying taxes. I had considered it to be a simple ritual without much appeal.
Tonight in a Bible class, Frank Lott showed me something that has changed my perspective about the Old Testament practice of tithing. He showed me a passage from Deuteronomy that revealed God's intent for tithing. God meant for it to be a time to celebrate. He wanted it to become a party in his presence. He wanted it to be a time of joy and generosity. He wanted his people to celebrate with their families, while sharing their offerings with the Levites (who had next to nothing of their own), the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows among them. Notice these powerful verses about how God originally intended for tithing to be observed:
"Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 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. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything else you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
"At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands" (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
At some point, the intent of the tithe may have been lost. Legalism may have transformed a party into a burden. But God never intended for it to be that way. He always wanted the offering of the tithe to be a time of celebration, joy, and generosity. He intended for it to bring people closer together as they shared with each other. He designed for it to generate awe and respect for himself as the one who had provided his people with so much to celebrate and to share.
Let's recapture the spirit of the original design for the tithe in our giving today. Let's enjoy, share, and be grateful for the blessings of God in our lives.