The Tithing Contract

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Genesis 14, Hebrew 7, 1 Crinthians 9
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 3

The Tithing Contract

(Genesis 14, Hebrews 7, 1 Corinthians 9)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Last week we discussed that salvation is free, but God presents challenges for us to receive special blessings. We began a discussion about the tithing blessing. This week we do a deep dive into the subject of tithing. What does God expect of us? What are the opportunities that it presents? Is tithing a moot issue? What does the Bible really teach about tithing for Christians? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Tithe Timeframe
    1. Genesis chapter 14 records a large battle among nine kings in the area in which Lot, nephew of Abraham, lived. Lot was swept up in the battle and taken captive, along with all of his property. Abraham heard of this tragedy and using his standing army (yes, he had a small army), defeated the kings who captured Lot, and recovered not only Lot’s belongings, but the belongings of a lot of other people. Let’s read Hebrews 7:1-2. Who did Abraham meet when he was returning from his battle victory? (Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God.)
      1. What is unusual about the job descriptions of Melchizedek? (He was both a priest and a king. God never combined the position of king with the position of priest in the Old Testament.)
    2. Read Hebrews 7:3. How does the writer of Hebrews explain this odd situation? (He says that Melchizedek resembles Jesus. Jesus is both our King and our High Priest.)
    3. Read Hebrews 7:4-6. Our focus is not on God’s view of the relationship between church and state, but rather the tithe. Why did Abraham pay Melchizedek a tithe? (Melchizedek was a “priest of the Most High God” (Hebrews 7:1), and He blessed Abraham. Hebrews 7:6.)
      1. Is there any indication that Melchizedek, in his position as King of Salem, helped Abraham win the battle? (No. If you review Genesis 14 the King of Salem was not a combatant. Instead, he showed up with wine and bread to meet Abraham after the battle. Genesis 14:17-18. Sounds like he created a picnic!)
        1. Does this remind you of Communion?
    4. Look again at Hebrews 7:6. What does this teach us about tithing outside of the Levitical system set up by Moses? (This verse and its context show that tithe-paying existed independent of the tribal system of God’s people in the Old Testament.)
      1. This speaks to a major criticism of tithe-paying today. Last week I pointed out in our discussion of Malachi 3 that the temple system and the “storehouse” (Malachi 3:10), were destroyed, and the Levitical priesthood no longer existed. Does tithe-paying stand apart from the Old Testament temple and priesthood system? (It does.)
      2. Consider a practical question. Abraham was between 75 and 100 years-old when he met Melchizedek. There is no record of Abraham previously paying tithe, and this tithe-paying is not on Abraham’s earnings (see, Deuteronomy 14:22), but rather the spoils that he won in battle. See Hebrews 7:4. What should we conclude from this? (This is clearly a different system of tithe. Melchizedek is a type of Jesus, thus this strongly suggests that outside of the Old Testament system Christians have some type of tithing obligation to Jesus.)
    5. In Genesis chapter 28 we find Jacob (the grandson of Abraham) fleeing from his brother Esau because of Jacob’s fraud. He heads to the house of his Uncle Laban when he receives a dream from God making the same promise to him as was given to Abraham. Read Genesis 28:16-18. Does Jacob consider this to be a significant event in his life? (Yes, because he marks it with a stone pillar.)
    6. Read Genesis 28:20-22. Is this tithing offer like the situation with Abraham or the Levitical tithe? (No.)
      1. What is different? (He places conditions on his tithe-paying. God is required to do certain things before Jacob will give back a “full tenth” “of all that you give me.”)
      2. Does it appear that Jacob paid tithe before this? (Between the time of Abraham and Melchizedek and this story with Jacob there is no mention of tithing. An argument based on absence is weak. But, Jacob’s words strongly suggest he has not been tithing, but that he knows about the idea.)
      3. Who is Jacob going to be paying his tithe to since Levite was his future son? (Genesis 28:22 simply says he is giving it to God.)
      4. How old was Jacob when he made this conditional promise? (I read a detailed analysis indicating that he could not have been more than 63 years-old.)
      5. What do you think sparked his tithe offer? (He prized a relationship with God. He spoke of tithe in the context of being blessed.)
    7. The examples of Abraham and Jacob show us that tithe-paying existed outside of the system set up by Moses for the support of the priestly tribe. That tithe, however, had significant differences. What is the central similarity between these tithing systems? (The first is the amount. All involve a 10% payment. The second is that they all are tied to God’s blessings. Tithing is about being blessed!)
  2. The Storehouse
    1. Read Deuteronomy 12:5-6. Did the Temple storehouse exist as this time? (No. This directive is well before the Temple was built. In fact, the people had not yet crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land. See, Deuteronomy 12:10.)
      1. Where are the people supposed to bring their tithes and offerings? (The place that God “will choose ... to put His Name and make His habitation there.”)
      2. I belong to a church which has a uniform system of payments to pastors and teachers. Everyone is paid according to a central scale, and their pay is not based on the wealth of the local church. Is paying to that “storehouse” a reasonable interpretation of the instruction to pay where God “has put His name?”
    2. Read Numbers 18:21. For what purpose was the tithe given? (To pay the Levites who served “in the tent of meeting.” The payment to the Levites preceded the existence of the Temple.)
    3. Read Deuteronomy 12:8-9. What were the people doing with their tithes before they entered the Promised Land? (They were doing whatever they thought was right.)
      1. Does this text suggest that this is a good or bad thing?
  3. The Tithe Today
    1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:6-7. What point is Paul making about gospel workers? (If you are working to advance the Kingdom of God, you should be paid for it.)
    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:8-10. To what does Paul appeal for his argument that Christian ministers should be supported by their congregation? (He refers to “the Law of Moses.”)
      1. Which Law of Moses? (Deuteronomy 25:4, which refers to letting oxen eat.)
      2. Why, of all things, would Paul refer to the law about supporting oxen and not the law about tithing?
    3. Read 1 Corinthians 9:11-13. What Law of Moses is referred to here? (This is a reference to the Levitical system of tithing.)
    4. Read 1 Corinthians 9:14. What does this tell us about God’s system for supporting His gospel workers? (Paul calls it a “command” that we support our spiritual leaders.)
      1. Let’s look at that command which we can read in Luke 10:7. Who sets the wages? (The homeowner.)
    5. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. How much does this say should be given? (Whatever “he has decided in his heart.”)
      1. Is this an amount to support the ministry? (If you look at the entire chapter, 2 Corinthians 9, you will find this is help to other Christians, and not supporting ministers. This is like a free-will offering, rather than tithe.)
    6. Friend, consider your obligations to support the work of God. If you are generous with God, He will be generous with you!
  4. Next week: Offerings for Jesus.