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Lesson 8: The Impact of Tithing *

Introduction: While many debate what tithing means today, what cannot reasonably be disputed is that God consistently teaches that those who advance His gospel are entitled to support from those who benefit. To better understand what God has in mind for us today, let's start with Paul's teaching in the New Testament and follow that with what Moses taught in the Old Testament. What could be better than digging into God's word to see what we can learn!

  1. Advancing the Gospel

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-2. How does Paul describe his work? (He is an apostle.)

      1. To whom is he an apostle? (He says that, at a minimum, he is an apostle to those who he serving and teaching.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:3-6. How would you state, in today's terms, Paul's defense to the charges against him? (If you are not paying me, what do you have to complain about?)

      1. None of my clients pay me. A Foundation funds all of the litigation I handle. Does that mean my clients should have no expectation of professional work from me?

      2. What is it that Paul and Barnabas were without that all of the other apostles had? (The others traveled with their wives, and they were given food and drink to support them.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 9:7. What answer would you give to these questions? (No one does that.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 9:8-10. What supports Paul's claim that he has a right to receive payment from those individuals he is teaching? (His argument is that both common sense and the Bible support the idea that gospel workers are entitled to support from those to whom they minister.)

    5. Read 1 Corinthians 9:11. After considering Paul's line of argument, and this current verse, what does this say to you about tithing? (It makes the general point that ministers, pastors, and gospel teachers are entitled to material support from those whom they serve.)

      1. Paul's argument has some curious aspects. He cites Deuteronomy 25:4. Let's read this text from the Old Testament. Does it say anything about supporting the ministry?

      2. Paul does not cite Malachi 3:10 from the Old Testament. Let's read it. Why would Paul cite an Old Testament text about feeding cattle and not cite any Old Testament text about tithe and supporting the Levites who ministered at the temple?

      3. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:9-10. How would you answer Paul's question about whether God is concerned about the oxen? (Look at the context of Deuteronomy 25:4. It is beyond doubt that God is talking about cattle. But, I agree with Paul's logic that this concept is applicable to supporting gospel workers.)

    6. Read 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 and Malachi 3:8-10. How do you explain the difference in tone between these two texts?

      1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:13. To what is Paul referring? (He is referring to the tithing system supporting the Levites.)

      2. If Paul makes specific reference to the tithing system, what does that say about his argument?

      3. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:14. What does "in the same way" reference? (The tithing system.)

        1. When Paul says that "the Lord has commanded" is he suggesting that supporting gospel workers is optional? (No.)

      4. What conclusions do you reach from the unique way Paul structures his argument about how we (those who are ministered to) should support those who minister to us? (First, Paul unambiguously says that it is God's command that gospel workers should receive support from their gospel work. Second, it seems nearly as clear that although Paul cites the temple system of tithing, he is not arguing that system is still in place. If he did, he would cite Malachi 3 and not a text about feeding cattle. The logical conclusion is that Paul believes that something conceptually like the tithing system is appropriate for Christians.)

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 9:15-18. This system for support that Paul describes, does it seem mandatory? (He is not demanding support, although he calls it a "right." Instead, he points out the blessings of helping others as a volunteer. Recall that Paul previously (v. 14) wrote that God "commanded" the system that gospel workers should receive their living from the gospel.)

      1. Read Acts 18:3. What kind of work does Paul do? (He is a tentmaker.)

      2. Is it a good idea to spend time making tents, when Paul (if he demanded and accepted support) could be spending his time preaching and teaching the gospel?

  2. The Tithe System

    1. We learned that Paul uses the tithe-system of the Old Testament as one basis for his argument that we must financially support those who advance the gospel. Let's explore the Old Testament tithe system a little more to better understand it. Read Numbers 18:21, 24-28. What is the purpose of this tithe? (The Levites were given no land by God, but they were given the responsibility of serving "at the Tent of Meeting." The tithe was God's substitute for land. Instead of obtaining food from the land, the Levites would obtain it from the other tribes who had been given land and who benefitted from the Levites religious work.)

      1. Notice that the Levites also paid a tithe. Why do you think God required them to pay a tithe? They were tithe receivers! (It taught the Levites the blessings and obligation of giving.)

      2. Why do you think God set up the tithe system in general? (It made practical sense, and it taught the blessings of giving.)

    2. Read Deuteronomy 14:22-23. Who is consuming the tithe here? (Those who paid it!)

      1. What is God's stated purpose in having the people eat their own tithe? (They will learn to revere God.)

      2. What about the Levites? Have they been left out?

    3. Read Deuteronomy 14:24-27. This tithe seems to be used to throw a party in God's presence. Is that how you understand it?

    4. Read Deuteronomy 14:28-29. How is the tithe used here? (To help those in need and the Levites.)

      1. Does the direction about throwing a party and helping the needy with the tithe seem in conflict with the command to give all the tithe to the Levites? (Yes, these texts seem in conflict. Many commentators resolve this apparent conflict by saying that the payments to the Levites are the "First Tithe." The "God party tithe" is the "Second Tithe." It appears that the Second Tithe was paid each year from what was left after the First Tithe. However, in the third year something different was done. The "help the poor" tithe, which appears to be the entire tithe, was paid to help the Levites and the poor. Historical records support this interpretation.)

      2. What lessons would you learn from this for today?

        1. That those who pay 10% today are paying too little, and are therefore robbing God (Malachi 3:10)?

        2. That God is concerned about the support of His work, He is concerned about us having an enjoyable family time in His presence, and, He is concerned about the poor?

    5. Read Genesis 28:20-22. Does this suggest that Jacob had been raised to believe that tithe-paying was mandatory? (It suggests that he had not previously paid tithe, and he was only paying it now if God would watch over him and bless him.)

    6. What should we conclude from Paul's writings and these Old Testament texts on tithing? (There is a universal theme that those who proclaim the gospel should be supported by those blessed by their proclamation. The concept of tithing was known in both the Old and New Testaments. The most formalized system of tithing was connected with the support of the temple/sacrificial system and the inheritance of the Levites. Ten percent is the benchmark for giving, and we learn that amount went even higher in the formalized system.)

    7. Friend, are you supporting the work of God, the work from which you benefit? Why not determine right now that you will invite God's unlimited blessings into your life by giving back at least a tithe?

  3. Next week: Offerings of Gratitude.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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