Rev. Kuiper is pastor of the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It belonged to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament that the head of each family contribute annually one tenth of the produce of the ground and every tenth animal that passed under the staff (method of counting) to the support of the Levites (Lev. 27:30-32). The Levites gave a tenth of these tithes for the support of the high priest (Num. 18:21). This was really very simple; all the Israelite had to do was count his blessings, move the decimal one figure to the left, and give that amount unto the Lord. God’s institution of tithing was in line with His treating of the Israelites as children.
The number ten in the denominator of the fraction one-tenth spoke of fullness and perfection. By willingly paying the tithe, the believing Israelite was confessing that the earth and its fullness belongs to the Lord, that He alone gave the increase, and He makes rightful claim to all that a man is and has. A refusal to pay the tithe was a denial of all this and meant that a man was really robbing God (Mal. 3:8). Apparently after the captivity some were withholding the tithe in the notion that they could not afford it. But God assured them that in the way of bringing their gifts to the storehouse, He would “open the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
That tithing is abolished amongst Christians is clearly shown by the fact that the New Testament Scriptures never call upon us to practice tithing. Not once is it enjoined upon us! We read of it in a highly critical sense when Jesus castigates the scrupulous tithing of the Pharisees, including even the mint, cummin, and anise (Matt. 23:23), and in the Lord’s parable of the selfrighteous Pharisee who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:12). Mention is also made in Hebrews 7 of Abraham’s giving a tenth of the spoil to Melchisedec (Gen. 12). That the New Testament saint is not called to pay tithes rests upon the truth that the ceremonial laws ceased at the coming of Christ. Yet, the truth and substance of tithing remain with us: God is still the sovereign Owner of all things in the universe, our possessions, incomes, and selves. In glad acknowledgment of this we offer our gifts for the support of the gospel ministry, the relief of the poor, and other kingdom labors and causes.
How shall members of the Spirit-filled, mature church conduct themselves in regard to giving? What guidelines shall we use in this present dispensation? Well, God lets that up to you and to me! I mean, He requires of us to figure that out. And that is not always so easy, surely not as easy as dividing our incomes by ten. Under the guidance of the Spirit and Word, we are to exercise the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free! The New Testament guidelines are: as a man purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, but cheerfully (II Cor. 9:7); and, liberally, regularly, and as God has prospered (I Cor. 16:1-3). Many are the saints who testify that as they give in this way, God pours out such a blessing upon them that there is not room to receive it! The Lord loveth a cheerful giver, and it is better to give than to receive.
Perhaps there is room for a practical remark here. In our small part of the universal kingdom of Christ, we are faced with many expensive building projects: seminary, churches, new schools, and expansion of our schools. In our estate planning, ought we not keep these needs in mind?