GENESIS 28:18-22: “Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: What is the significance of the tithe (giving 10% of our income to the Lord)? Is tithing a concept that is linked to the Old Covenant or is it still a viable truth for the Christian under the New Covenant? Why is there so much controversy and misunderstanding about the tithe?
In all my years of pastoring I have encountered many objections and misunderstandings regarding the principle of tithing. It seems that we become a bit Pharisaical in our debate over the tithe. We focus more on the minor details (Is it 10% of our gross or net?; Did Jesus tithe?; Why isn’t tithing taught in the New Testament?; Where should my tithe go?; etc.), and we miss the most important truth about the tithe.
The most important truth about the tithe is that it is an act of worship which is a visible expression of a deep inward faith and trust in God. And, as we study the Scriptures, we find that over and over again, the tithe is linked to heartfelt worship and the acknowledgment that Yahweh is the one true God and we are His people. This is the truth that we see emphasized in God’s revelation of Himself to Jacob at Bethel.
Jacob knew about God. No doubt his father Isaac shared with Jacob how the Lord had revealed Himself to him at Beersheba. Yet, Jacob to this point had not encountered the Lord personally. Jacob was walking in the light of his own wisdom and understanding. Instead of faith, he relied on deceit and trickery. And, fleeing from the anger of his brother Esau, after stealing Esau’s blessing, Jacob has no idea that his life is about to change.
God does not reveal Himself to Jacob because of Jacob’s works or personal righteousness. God reveals Himself to Jacob based on His grace, mercy, and the covenant He established with Abraham and Isaac.
- “Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Genesis 28:12-15 NKJV
When Jacob realizes that he has just received a vision of heaven – everything changes!
- “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it. ” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 NKJV
What awe, what surprise, what wonderment takes place when the heart of a sinner is cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We stand before the throne of God fully pardoned. We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The guilt and shame of our past is washed away. We have the assurance of God’s love and the hope of eternal life. And, we know that what we have just received was a gift that we did not deserve. It creates a sense of humility, worship, and Godly fear!
This is exactly what happened to Jacob. He stood upon the very gate of the eternal. He had been given a glimpse into the heavenlies. And, He had been given the assurance that the Lord would fulfill the covenant established with his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. Jacob had done nothing to warrant this bestowal of grace. Yet, as in salvation, God’s promise of grace must be received by faith.
- “Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.” Genesis 28:18-21 NKJV
In Jacob’s vow he is simply affirming the covenant that has been proclaimed and extended to him. If God will be with him, if He will keep him in all his ways, if He will be his provider, then Jacob will commit his entire life to the worship of the one true God.
So how does Jacob tangibly show his commitment and trust in the covenant of God? Was it by setting up the stone and pouring the oil over it? No, Jacob did this before he made his vow – his answer of faith. There was only one way that Jacob could tangibly express his commitment and worship to Yahweh. And, this was through the tithe.
- “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” Genesis 28:22 NKJV
There was a transfer that took place at Bethel. Jacob, traveling in his own strength, and relying on his own wisdom, is confronted by the living God. Acknowledging God, Jacob surrenders his entire life in worship to Yahweh. It is no longer Jacob on his own mission. It is now Jacob fulfilling the covenant and calling of God. And, he acknowledged the true source of everything that he possessed. The true source was God alone.
Notice Jacob’s words – “…and all that You give me…”. In these words He makes His profession of faith. His faith is proven by his act of worship – “…I will surely give a tenth to You.”. Tithing is the tangible expression of worship flowing from the heart of one whose life has been transformed by the grace and mercy of God. It is not about the Old or New Covenant. It is about the response of the human heart to God’s grace. It is an act of true worship.
Well, what about all the other questions about tithing? I believe when we acknowledge tithing as an act of worship, all the other questions will easily fall into place. We will not be trying to proof text our positions. We will not be looking for exemption clauses. We will humbly be coming to God in sincere worship – bringing Him a tenth of all He places into our hands.
Lord, thank you for the opportunity to worship you with the tithe!
In Jesus Name!