The Principle of Three Tithes

Did you know the Bible specifically mentions THREE different types of tithing? Maybe, maybe not. The question is; How do these principles of tithing apply to our lives today?

Let’s examine this…

The first tithe is the most commonly understood tithe. If you are a Christian you’ve heard of paying your tithes on Sunday. This first tithe can be traced back to Abraham, it is known as the sacred tithe. This tithe is given to the Levites and priests for their service to the temple and the congregation in the Old Testament. This is the tithe we continue to give under the priesthood of Melchizedek in the New Testament. It is the tithe consecrated to God and the furtherance of the gospel and has, therefore, validity for all believers in Christ.

Hebrews 7:8, “In the one case tithes are received by mortal men…” (this is New Testament) … “…but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.” I put my tithe in the offering bag (or I can text it in or give online in most cases), mortal men take it out, but there HE receives my tithe. Jesus himself receives my tithe. I don’t pay my tithe to the Pastor, I pay my tithe to Christ.

The second tithe had an entirely different aspect, and we would do well to contemplate its meaning and purposes. The Levitical law required that a Jew had to go up to Jerusalem on certain occasions. In reality this religious ordinance included a definite social provision—periods of vacation for the family. And how should the head of the household pro­vide for the vacation expense? By setting aside a second tithe, the one described in Deuteronomy 14:22-27, the tithe for the feasts. Thus the second tithe was dedicated to the good of man himself, for a vacation.

The second tithe is not you paying God, it’s you paying YOU. Saving isn’t a man made principle, it’s a God ordained principle. The leader of the home was EXPECTED to set aside a second tithe (another 10%) into a savings account so that the family can have (1) future provision (emergency fund), and (2) so that the family can take a vacation!

The origins of the third tithe are lost in antiquity, but we do know a little bit about it. The law explaining the third tithe follows on the heels of the law of the second tithe:

“At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29).”

The expression “within thy gates” is very important. Let’s make this a little more relatable to our lives today. Within your house.

The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, men­tions the custom of paying three tithes: “In ad­dition to the two tithes which I have already directed you to pay each year, the one for the Levites and the other for the banquets, ye should devote a third every third year to the distribu­tion of such things as are lacking to WIDOWED women and ORPHAN children.”—Antiquities iv. 240; Loeb ed

Let’s see… WIDOWED women and ORPHAN children… “within thy gates”.

Yes, our modern social security system and our welfare system seem to fit the idea of this third tithe; but I think it goes further than that. The idea behind this tithe was for provision for the widows and orphans; specifically widows and orphans within the gates of the tither. It was the head of the homes RESPONSIBILITY, according to this principle, to make sure that if HE DIED, there would be PROVISION for his family.

Here’s the principle of the three tithes. Your first 10% goes to GOD and your second 10% goes to YOU. THEN, you need to make provision for your family so that when you die your family is still taken care of. That’s LIFE INSURANCE.

Biblically, God has given us a blueprint for Financial Security. By giving God your first 10%, He will bless the remaining 90%. By paying yourself the second 10%, you have money in case of emergencies, and you have money to take your family on vacation without having to exhaust your income or use credit cards. By getting life insurance, you ensure (1) your family will be provided for if you die and (2) you leave behind a legacy (inheritance) for your children (Proverbs 13:22).

Published by Joshua McElhaney

Joshua McElhaney has served over 15 years in ministry, serving as both an Assistant Pastor for over a decade, and as lead Pastor. During his time in leadership, Joshua learned many valuable lessons about leading. Using his own experiences and the troves of Biblical treasures, McElhaney has created resources that will enlighten, empower, and enable leaders across the spectrum to lead the way God has called them to lead. Joshua married Karena, his college sweetheart, in June of 2007. Together they have three beautiful children; Mayli, Jaxson, and Asher.

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