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Recall that under the Mosaic Covenant God ordained the tenth for the support of the Levites who assisted the priests in the service of the tabernacle. The Levites also worked in the interpretation of the law. When Solomon’s temple was placed in service the Levites continued in their service as before; that is, they performed the same duties.

The tithe belonged to those who carried out the service of the temple. Aaron and the priests relied on the sacrificial offerings, especially the cereal offerings since these were the most frequent of the sacrifices; but they also received a tenth of that which the congregation tithed to the Levites. The tithe belonged to the Levites. God gave it to them, and it was theirs to use. Scripture declares:

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they
are written for out admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages
have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

God had certain events and experiences of various people, most importantly the nation of Israel, recorded that future generations might know God’s ways for man and profit from the records of His dealings with His people and the nations that were in some way a factor in the development of Israel’s history. Nothing has been allowed into the canon of Scripture except what God permitted. It is worth repeating again what He said regarding the assignment of the tithe:

“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel
for an inheritance, for the service which they serve, the service of the
tabernacle of the congregation.” (Numbers 18:21)

God ordained the tenth as belonging to the Levite. It was required of His people to support them and their families. The Levites ministered to the spiritual welfare of the people of Israel. What could have been more important than that the people live in an obedient relationship to their Creator? Thus the design of the tithe was to take care of the needs of those who looked after the spiritual welfare of the nation.

Compare this perspective on the Old Testament use of the tithe to meet the physical needs of these “ministers” of the grace of God to what God has purposed in this New Testament dispensation. We will take a close look at a passage of Scripture in the Book of First Corinthians.

“Who goes to war at any time at his own charges? Who plants a
vineyard, and eats not of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and does
not eat of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or
does not the law say the same thing also? For it is written in the
law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that
treads out the grain. Does God take care for oxen? Or does He
say this altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is
written, that he that plows should plow in hope; and he that
threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown
unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your
fleshly things? If others be partakers of this right over you, do not
we yet more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right,
but we bear all things, in order that we do not hinder the gospel of
Christ. Do you not know that they who minister about holy things
live of the things of the temple? And they who wait on the altar of
sacrifice have their portion with the altar of sacrifice? Even so has
the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of
the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:7-14)

We look at this Scripture on a verse by verse basis.

Verse 7: “Who goes to war at his own expense?”

A soldier has a right to his wages. The nation or individual who employs him furnishes the provision and pays for him being a soldier. Why should not he who defends the great interests of his country and fights for the interests of justice and truth, who is willing to live outside in the field of battle, endure harsh weather conditions and other hardship, and place his health and life in jeopardy, not be fed and clothed, and have his family provided for while he is engaged in the protection of the citizens and the property of his nation?

“Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?”

A man who plants a vineyard, cares for it, and harvests its fruit does so with the expectation he will derive support from his efforts—be it his own or another man’s vineyard.

“Or who feeds a flock and does not eat of the milk of the flock?”

He who tends a flock of cattle, whether or not he owns the animals, expects to either derive his keep from his care of them through the sale of the milk, or be compensated in money or goods, or whatever, for the labor he has expended.

Verse 8: “Say I these things as a man? Or does the law say the same thing

Paul is an apostle of God and what he says here has the approval of God behind it.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable
for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Paul is not saying these things in fashion as a man so that the principle is from human origin. God Himself has ordered these matters. They are stated in the law.

Verse 9: “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the
mouth of the ox that treads out the grain [Deuteronomy 25:4].
Does God take care for oxen?”

The ox is not to have its mouth bound to prevent it from eating when it is treading out the grain of the threshing. The rule of love is in force. Man is to be kind to his beasts of burden, and man is also to provide for the needs of those who labor in their behalf.
God is concerned for the ox that labors in the master’s field, and He is no less concerned that those who preach the gospel have all their needs met.

Verse 10: “Or does He say this altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no
doubt this is written, that he that plows should plow in hope, and
that he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.”

This law concerning oxen extends far beyond the employment of oxen. Richard Lenski wrote: “It concerns them only incidentally; this law is chiefly a law concerning us, in fact, one that ‘altogether’ concerns us.”

God’s laws are kind and equitable to all. He does not just favor a Paul, a Moses,
an Abraham, or certain ministers of the gospel. The man who tills the earth, plants the seed, and cares for the crops ought to have a reasonable expectation that he himself will be compensated for the fruit of his labors—that he will be able to provide for himself and his family from the work that he does. He that threshes should not be expected to thresh and not have an expectation of compensation or support for his efforts and dedication.

Verse 11: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if
we shall reap your fleshly things?”

As regards those who labor to impart the truth of the gospel to others, with its glorious message of reconciliation and adoption into the family of God, should they not expect to receive of their congregations support for their temporal needs? Are these to see themselves as less worthy than the ox that is cared for by its owner?

You are well aware that the teacher who teaches, the doctor who practices medicine, the merchant who traffics in goods for profit, the lawyer who practices his profession, the laborer who works in the manufacturing arena, all, are compensated for their labors as a just due for their service to mankind.

Verse 12 “If others be partakers of this right over you, do not we yet more.
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we bear all
things, in order that we do not hinder the gospel of Christ.”

The apostles surely have this right to expect remuneration for their labor in the gospel—for there is no more important matter in life than that one be reconciled to God and live to please Him. This is the task God has assigned to the ministers of the gospel—that they live in His love and provision, labor to bring the good news of His Savior to men, and teach them concerning the word of God—such that in all aspects of the gospel they may be enriched, in that they remain faithful as pleasing God unto the coming day of the Lord.

Paul was chosen by God for the work of apostleship. No one has a right to deny that Paul should not expect the support of those who profit by his labor of love in the gospel. However, Paul, and probably Silas and Timothy, and perhaps the other apostles, did not accept support from the Corinthians and other churches they established. “Paul’s life was a life of privilege and of self denials” (Lenski), and he was careful to give no opportunity to others to question his loyalty and devotion to Christ, and in order that his (Paul’s) Savior might find his service well pleasing to Him Who showed such great mercy to him to forgive him, deliver him from his opposition to the gospel, and even ordain him to apostleship.

In Paul’s time it was not an easy matter to preach and teach and at the same time perform other work to provide for themselves and cover their travel expenses. There can be no doubt that performing secular work to pay for their upkeep would reduce the time that might otherwise be spent in winning souls to the Savior and in teaching them the fundamentals of the faith. Paul states that the decision to not take support from the Corinthians was with the purpose to deny his adversaries any opportunity to accuse Paul and his companions of taking advantage of anyone—and this furnish a hindrance to the gospel.

There were those who opposed Paul and his companions by associating them with the roving charlatans of that time, “the itinerant philosophers and rhetoricians” (F. L. Godet), who were out for what they could get from the people. By their gratuitous labor of love it be easily seen that the apostles were very different. They were unselfish, not asking or desiring their support, truly committed to honoring the Savior and to bestowing only good on others.

For all the personal sacrifice Paul, Silas, and Timothy were making, Paul is even in a stronger position to drive home the intent of God that they and all who are called to labor in the gospel have a Divinely authorized right to expect support from those who benefit from their ministration of the gospel.

Verse 13 “Do you not know that they who minister about holy things
live of the things of the temple? And they who wait at the
altar are partakers with the altar?”

Those who renounce secular occupations to consecrate their efforts to the development of spiritual growth in others have a right to be supported by the recipients of their ministry. In fact, God has ordained it that those who receive ministry are bound to provide for the material support of those who minister to them. It is a principal of both the Old and New Testament Dispensations. Paul brings this out in this Scripture.

Verse 14 “Even so has the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel
should live of the gospel.”

God established the means of support for those who serve in the spiritual interests of the people, that all who labor in ministering the gospel to others should be sufficiently compensated to enable them to continue their labor of love undiminished for lack of support—to the end that God might bestow His grace upon those who would hear and apply the truths they bear.

• God has not rescinded the basic means for the support of those
who minister spiritual truth. There is no more important task
in life than in proclaiming those truths of the gospel which
brings deliverance to the captives of evil.

God, Who knows completely the hearts of men, how weak men are and prone to failures, did not overlook the needs of the ministers of the gospel (and their families). Long ago He ordered for the provision of the under-shepherds of the flock; and this means He has not rescinded, otherwise the proclamation of the gospel would suffer. God’s primary interest in His creation of man was to raise up a family unto Himself. Therefore, the preaching of the gospel of Christ has the highest priority. What labor of love could be more important on this earth?

• In establishing the tenth as belonging to the Levite who served
the service of the temple, God was also establishing the means
of support for the ministers of the gospel.

Reflect back to our previous article wherein we noted God’s displeasure with what was being offered on the altar of sacrifice. From the book of Malachi, we quoted the Lord’s censure of the priests for offering “polluted bread” and of the people for withholding that which was due the Lord. He declared there that they were robbing Him in the tithe and the offerings (Malachi 3:8-10).

The polluted bread related to offerings of the blind, the lame, the sick—the worst of their flock. (Malachi 1:6-14). In part one of this article it was noted that the priests were offering these blemished animals on the holy altar of God because this is what the people were bringing to them for their sacrifices. What we did not bring out was why the priests were willing to disregard the commandments of God that disallowed such offerings and instead, to act presumptuously in offering that which was not acceptable to the Lord? See in this folly of the priests a lack of respect for the holiness of God. They were doing a wicked thing.

The reason they did this: Since it was from these offerings they derived a significant portion of their keep, they chose not to ”rock the boat,” probably fearing that many of the people would not bring sacrifices and offerings at all. (Would this not fit the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” mentality?) They feared for the loss of their “income,” their means of support, rather than fear the holy One of Israel who had given them their very appointment in the temple service. The people were in disobedience in robbing God—they did not fear Him. The showed their contempt of Him in withholding that which He required of them. And the priests themselves were highly disrespectful of God, and in fact were also contemptuous of Him, in setting a very bad example before the people—for the people surely knew that what they brought for sacrifice and offering was not acceptable to the Lord.

God had ordained in the ordinances of the law, covering sacrifices and offerings, what could and should be offered:

• to make atonement for man—to make fellowship between sinful
man an a holy God possible,
• to obtain purification following childbirth, healing, or bodily
• for forgiveness for infractions of the commandments of God,
• for consecration or rededication,
• to express thanksgiving,
• to appeal to God for some special favor, and
• as paying or returning to God that which He required of man—i.e.
the first fruits and tithes.

All interactions with the Almighty were in the context of the only appropriate approach to the holy God. Sacrificial animals, therefore, had to be whole and without blemish. Whatever it was must be free of contamination. Thus in the case of cereal offerings “all leavened (i.e. putrefied) food was forbidden in offerings made by fire to the Deity… being permitted only when the sacrificial fare was to be eaten by men.” (IDB) The priests and Levites who participated in the sacrificial ceremony, could not be maimed, deformed or diseased. (See Leviticus 21:17-23) Even the place where the food was eaten had to be deemed holy.

All of the strict procedures were designed by God to teach man God was holy and was to be honored in every area of life and action. Any violation of the rules He laid down in regard to sacrifices and offerings would render the sacrifice or offering, or both, ineffectual. If a priest offered anything that was unclean, or officiated over an offering in a non-prescribed manner, this would violate God’s ordinance for sacrifices and offerings and would call forth God’s displeasure with the proceedings.

That which was holy to God was not to be taken and used for purposes other than that ordained by the Owner of the universe. To take that which was holy to God, or that which belonged to Him, and defile it by using it for common purposes—to uses not sanctified or approved by Him—was “to rob God” (Malachi 3:8-9) of that which belonged to Him—thus to show disrespect to Who He is and the authority of His word over all aspects of the life of man and society.

We are to keep it ever in mind what while God is the God of love:

He is a holy God and expects holy living from His people.

He is to be always held in honor by always seeking to give priority to His words of truth. This means that the child of God is to be ever open to the revelation of new truth from God, as well as to the clarification of those commands that have been misunderstood, and to be reminded of the necessity of obedience regarding that which has been forgotten or knowingly violated.

So what was it that drew the response from the Lord through the prophet Malachi that they were cursed with a curse for having robbed God in the tithe and the offerings? Although some were bringing their animals for sacrifice, and they were being offered, they were not accepted by God for their serious violation of the worthiness of the sacrifice. God’s anger was focused on the priests first because they should not have accepted those forbidden sacrifices. This showed a contempt for the altar and for the Lord.

The priests should have refused to accept what was a violation of the law of God pertaining to sacrifice and offerings. They should have upbraided the people and said to them, “Bring that which is in conformity to the requirements of God. Do not deceive yourselves into hoping that the Holy One of Israel will find pleasure in your bringing to Him for sacrifice that which is lame, and sick and blind. Repent of this thy wickedness lest the Lord cast you out of His sight. Bring sacrifices and offerings that meet with the true intent of the mercy and grace of God to own us as His people.”

But the priests considered that service, which they should have regarded as an honor and a privilege extended to them, to be a burdensome and troublesome thing. Disliking what they were doing they permitted the altar to be polluted in their disrespect of it. This clearly demonstrated their indifference to the holiness of God. They did not fear Him.
So they were not inclined to refuse to offer sacrificially worthless animals on the altar of sacrifice. The people were deceived into thinking these were being accepted, and the priests, probably anxious to get whatever they could, accepted what was prohibited in the law. Through the voice of the prophet Malachi, God declares to the priests that they are cursed. Their attitude towards God is visible and they are seen to be contemptible and base men. The priests have departed from the covenant and have been the cause of the stumbling of many.

“But you are departed out of the way; you have caused many to
stumble at the law; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,
saith Jehovah of hosts.” (Malachi 2:8)

It is also important to note that the people were not bringing all of the tithe to the Lord. They were withholding a portion of that which belonged to the children of Levi.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say,
How have we robbed Thee? In the tithes and the offerings
[heave-offerings]. You are cursed with a curse, for you have
robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithe into
the storehouse…” (Malachi 3:-10a)

They were not bringing all the tithe to the Levites, they were withholding what did not belonged to them, and were in truth stealing from God. The whole nation was doing this; thus the widespread wickedness of the people was apparent.

…… be continued

fruits & tithes
fruits & tithes
Verse 13
Verse 13
1 Corinthians 9:7-14
1 Corinthians 9:7-14
And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance...
Malachi 3:10a
Malachi 3:10a
Malachi 2:8
Malachi 2:8
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God
Captives of Evil
Captives of Evil
the Gospel
the Gospel
2 Timothy
2 Timothy
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Of Faith & Practice : God’s Design In The Use Of The Tithe : Part 1 : (Dec. 6, 2002)