Abraham Paid Tithes
There are several times in Scripture when tithing was practiced but the most important of all is the first time it is mentioned.
Abraham was the one who paid the tithe and he paid it to a priest by the name of Melchizedek. The incident is recorded in Genesis 14:20. There are several things which make this situation very interesting.
In this chapter Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who had been living in Sodom, had been taken captive when Sodom and her sister cities were attacked by invading armies. As soon as Abraham heard of this attack, and the capture of his nephew’s family, he organized a militia which executed a counter attack and successfully recovered all of the people and goods that had been taken. To show his gratitude the King of Sodom offered all the recovered goods as a reward. Abraham did two things in response both of which were intended to send a message.
One, he refused to take anything from Sodom even though he had every right to do so. In fact, theoretically Abraham could have taken more than just the goods. He had the military power to do whatever he wanted. Sodom’s army had been wiped out by the invaders and had only survived the ordeal because Abraham had rescued them. If he had wanted to, he could have taken everyone and every thing but that is not what he did. He refused any offering from Sodom and in so doing he established a public testimony to his dependence on God and his separation from Sodom and from everything the people stood for.
Abraham was going the extra mile to prevent anyone thinking he had a material relationship with Sodom. He knew that having money was not the basis of a testimony. How you manage money is. He wanted his material status to be associated with God not Sodom (Genesis 14:22).
A second thing Abraham did was to pay a tithe of all the goods that had been recovered and there are some very interesting observations to be drawn from this.
There is absolutely no explanation accompanying this act of giving. There is no instruction from God or statement from Abraham as to the “how” and “why” of tithing. It was obviously an understood practice. It had been in place previous to this event and needed no comment.
The silence is deafening. God didn’t say anything because nothing needed to be said. Abraham knew what he was doing, Lot probably knew what he was doing and there was no explanation given to the people of Sodom. Maybe we are to understand they knew what Abraham was doing also. God inspired no editorial material either so maybe He expects us to figure it out also.
Another interesting observation about this event was the fact that Abraham was giving a tenth of material goods which belonged to someone else. That had to send some very strong signals to everyone.
Can we read this and not believe that God is the source of all material increase? Whatever we have is due to the grace and mercy of God. That is true of the Christian and it is true of the world. Even Jesus said that one expression of God’s love is the outpouring of rain and the provision of sun shine, both of which provide material sustenance for everyone, the good and the evil (Matt. 5:45).
And additionally, if God provides everything then it only follows that a tenth of everything is His.
Abraham said all of that without uttering one word. Tithing is a practice which speaks volumes without the use of language. It is putting your money where your mouth is. This practice is an expression of trust, obedience and maturity and speaks of your relationship with God on a personal level. Consistent, regular giving is one way to identify with God. Giving is God’s way of showing His love. It is one way we can do the same.
The tithe paid by Abraham is also referred to in the New Testament (Hebrews 7:5-9) and the reference was made to demonstrate the inferiority of the Old Testament legal system. That inferiority was shown by the fact that the Levites (teachers of the law), who received the tithes, paid tithes in their father Abraham, long before the law was ever given.
What is implied in the comparison is the fact that the tithes paid by Abraham were exactly the same as the tithes paid under the law. If they were not, then Paul couldn’t have made his argument about the inferiority of the Levites compared to Melchizedec.
The tithing practiced by Abraham was equal to the tithing practiced by Israel. The priests to whom they paid them were not. Paul’s purpose, of course, was to illustrate the weakness of the Levitical system not invalidate tithing.
The only change instituted in the law relative to tithing was the recipient. God had to instruct His people to give the tithe to a certain group of humans who had been set aside by God as His special representatives in the society of that day. The tithe belongs to God but was to be managed by people.
The point of course is this; Abraham’s experience sets the precedent. Whatever you believe or say about tithing must accord well with the example of Abraham. Every other incident in Scripture, where tithing is practiced or discussed, takes its meaning from a page in Abraham’s life.
Taxing for the support of political systems did occur under the law but not until the first King came to the throne. Taxes were paid in addition to the tithe not in place of it.
As a tither, Abraham’s testimony is compelling.
In Tithing, Douglas Leblanc provides much more than a narrow discussion on a traditional issue. It isn’t the same old arguments presented the same boringly technical way.
Instead, and probably because he is “no theologian or exegetical writer,” Douglas has found an intriguing way to cut to the real heart of the issue – compassion and concern for others. He shares the experiences of twelve different homes, mostly couples with the exception of one lone Monsignor, all of whom endorse tithing for a very similar reason: selflessness.