Abraham's nephew Lot, who had foolishly pitched his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), got caught in the crossfire of a war between the King of Sodom and other kings. Word of this got back to Abraham, who at once proceeded to rescue his nephew. The success of Abraham in defeating all the kings with the help of 318 of his best trained men, was phenomenal. Not only did Abraham subdue the kings and plunder them, he also rescued Lot and recovered all his good "together with the women and the other people". (Genesis 14:16 New International Version)
At this stage, there emerges one of the more mysterious and sublime events in all Holy Writ. Out of the blue as it were, one called Melchizedek King of Salem and priest of the Most High God, brought out bread and wine. Melchizedek said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." (Genesis 14:19-20 New International Version) It is at this time that tithing comes into the picture. Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes (a tenth) of all (everything).
"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated 'king of righteousness' and then also king of Salem, meaning 'king of peace', without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils." Hebrews 7:1-4.
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You'." Genesis 28:20-22.
Tithing and the Mosaic Law
About 400 years after Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes of all, the Mosaic Law made tithing a legal obligation.
"And of all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy to the Lord." Leviticus 27:30.
"Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites a an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance'." Numbers 18:21-24.
"But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tithes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all o which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you." Deuteronomy 12;5-7.
"'You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offerings of your hand. But you must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gate; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all to which you put your hands." Deuteronomy 12:17-19.
"And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better." Hebrews 7:5-7.
What Jesus Said Concerning Tithing
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisee, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Matthew 23:23.
Saints, if Jesus said, "without leaving the others undone" with respect to tithing, where would missions be today? That brief phrase has spelled the difference between success and failure in the enterprise of the Church of Jesus Christ at home and abroad. Where would foreign missions be without this verse? Had Jesus not made that statement, there would be almost no motivation to give to God as we should. Jesus' words prove that tithing was not a part of the law that was to be dropped (as if tithing had been a temporary principle).
"But woe unto you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Luke 11:42.
The Pragmatic Test of Tithing
The pragmatic test of tithing is equally biblical. (By pragmatic, I mean, 'Does it work?') The scriptural mandate should always come first. However the pragmatic test should follow.
Some argue that if the bible says it, that is enough. In other words, if it is scriptural, then it does not matter whether or not it works. I am sympathetic toward this line of reasoning, but I cannot ignore such verses as Malachi 3:10.
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the Lord of host, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." Malachi 3:10.
"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6.
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things may have an abundance for every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8.