1. In a dream, God told Jacob that He was giving him and his descendants the land on which he was lying, i.e. the Promised Land:
There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.” (Genesis 28:13 NIV)
2. After waking, Jacob vowed to give God a tithe of everything God was giving him, i.e. a tithe of the Promised Land:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:20-22 NIV)
3. The sole purpose of the 27th chapter of Leviticus was to instruct the Israelites on how they could redeem property that had been given to God through a vow. At the end of the chapter, God said He owned a tenth of the land’s agricultural production and gave instructions on how to redeem it. In other words, God affirmed that the tithe had been given to Him through a vow:
“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.’” (Leviticus 27:30-33 NIV)
4. Leviticus 27:30-33 was NOT a command to tithe; it was a statement of ownership. God owned the tithe, a tenth of the land’s agricultural production, before the Israelites ever stepped foot in the Promised Land. They couldn’t possibly give the tithe to God because they didn’t own it to begin with. The only “giving” they did with respect to the tithe was a transfer of possession, not a transfer of ownership.
5. God divided the Promised Land among the 12 tribes of Israel as their inheritance, and gave His tenth of the land’s agricultural production to the Levites as their inheritance:
“I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.” (Numbers 18:21 NIV)
6. The Levites were to bring a tithe of the tithe, or one percent of the land’s agricultural production, to the temple storehouse:
A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. (Nehemiah 10:38 NIV)
7. God warned the Israelites that failure to obey His commands would result in God’s crippling of the land through drought and locusts:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NIV)
8. Through the prophet Malachi, God said the Levites were robbing Him by not bringing the tithe of the tithes to the temple storehouse, and that their punishment was affecting the entire nation:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.” (Malachi 3:8-9 NIV)
9. God told the Levites that if they started bringing the whole tithe to the temple storehouse, then He would open the floodgates of heaven and prevent pests from devouring their crops. In other words, He would reverse the punishment of drought and locusts that He warned them about in 2 Chronicles:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:10-11 NIV)
10. The blessing mentioned in Malachi 3:10 was rain, so much rain that the cisterns (big holes in the ground) used by the Israelites to collect rain water would overflow. Rain was life. Life for plants, life for animals, life for people. God promised to give them life if they would simply start obeying Him.
11. For churches and pastors to twist Malachi 3 into a warning from God that He’ll punish Christians for not giving a tenth of their income to their local church, and that He’ll bless them with so much money and material possessions that they won’t have enough room to store it for giving a tenth of their income, is both completely unbiblical and totally reprehensible. Nowhere in the Bible does God ever change the substance of the tithe (agricultural production from the Promised Land given to Him by Jacob) or the recipient of the tithe (the Levites).
12. When Jesus mentioned giving of the tithe (transfer of possession to the Levites) while addressing the Pharisees, He quite correctly referred to agricultural production, not money:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23 NIV)
13. The apostle Paul, the great purveyor of the New Covenant who was once a Pharisee himself, never mentioned the practice of tithing in any of his letters to the Gentile churches. That's because the biblical tithe was never about money or supporting the church. It was about agricultural production from the Promised Land that Jacob gave to God and God incorporated into the Old Covenant by giving it to the Levites for their work at the temple. When the Old Covenant ceased to exist, so too did the biblical tithe.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.