Saturday, September 13, 2008

Freed from Tithing, Free to Give - Part 4

The Levites
The Old Covenant was a special system, set up for special purposes. The Old Covenant was set up for the people of Israel. Included in the covenant were various laws, ordinances, rituals, etc. The Levites were one of the twelve hereditary tribes of Israel. God set apart this tribe for special service to Him under this covenant (this happened after Israel's exodus from Egypt). In the book of Numbers, we find out about the special office and functions of the Levites. In order to properly understand the tithes (which I think a large majority of the church today doesn't understand), it's important to know about the Levites, because they were the recipients of the tithes! The duties of the Levites varied, and were divided up among all of the Levites. At different times the duties included guarding the sanctuary, moving the tent and carrying the parts from place to place, preparing the bread of the Presence, leading music during worship, slaughtering and skinning the animals for sacrifice, and a whole slew of other important duties. I'm intentionally being very brief here.

Important Information about the Levites
Something that's very important to note - and this is where we see the true purpose for the tithes - is that unlike the eleven other tribes, the Levites were given no territorial possessions or physical inheritance. The Lord Himself was their inheritance (Numbers 18:20). Therefore, the way in which they were supported in return for their service to the Lord was through the receiving of the tithes of the produce and of the flocks and herds of the other tribes, as well as certain portions of the sacrificial offerings. Again we're now getting to the real meaning and purpose of the tithes. The Lord spoke about how the Levites would be taken care of through the various offerings of food, oil, wine, etc, that the people gave, and He speaks of the tithes:
Numbers 18:21, 24 "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting... For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance..."
Many Christians today, who at least have a little bit of an understanding that the tithes had something to do with the Levites, unfortunately take the liberty of equating the office of the Levites and the tabernacle in which they served with that of the modern day pastor and "church." Somewhere along the line they seem to forget the purpose of the Levites, or perhaps never really had a proper understanding in the first place. Take some time and read through all of Numbers 18 (and other passages that speak of the tithes and the functions of the Levites and the tabernacle). As you read about all of this, ask yourself if the comparison is anything close to being valid!

Deuteronomy 12
In Deuteronomy 12, the Lord was laying down "the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth." (Deut 12:1).

Included in this were instructions about many things, including the tithes:
Deut 12:5-7 "But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
What were they to do with all of this (the burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, heave offerings, etc)? Were they to bring it to the "local church" so that God would "open up the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing that there wouldn't be enough room to receive it?" No! They were to eat it!

You think this is strange (according to what you've previously been taught about tithing)? Wait till we get to Deuteronomy 14!

Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


  1. We are thoroughly enjoying this study; thank you for your scholarship.
    OK, so you're preaching to the choir. Our house isn't named Jubilee for nothing! :)

  2. Joel,
    Good explanation of the Levites. To me, when I think about this devoted group of men, I think of our modern-day firemen. The Levites, were, in essence totally dependent on the people to provide for them financially and all their living needs. In turn, they provided valuable devotion and service for everyone spiritually and emotionally.

    Today, our firemen and women are much the same. They dedicate their lives to rescuing, saving, helping citizens and the community with their service. I have no problem thinking that my tax dollars go to (however, I do have to sigh... at other types of "services" my tax dollars end up, but there's no point in getting into that here).

    In Old Testament times, because the people were still under the Law, God had "appointed" the Levites to spiritually attend to His children. And God, Himself, created the system of tithing specifically so that their needs would be taken care of.

    In New Testament times, all Believers are part of the priesthood. There is no need for pastors ("Levites"). Thus, when leaders of congregations "take" and "receive" money from us, it's really not in the purpose or plan of God.

    Again, great blog, Joel.

    ~Amy :)

  3. RJW,

    Yep in many ways I'm preaching to the choir here. :) But in other ways I believe that there are a lot of people who might come across this series who have simply been taught the grossly misguided teaching in the church today that tithing means bringing 10% of your income to a church, and who don't have a clue about the Levites or the true reason the tithes were given.

    I continue to enjoy preaching to the choir, and also hopefully changing a few mindsets about the truth of tithing... for the main purpose of setting people free from the undue bondage that the church has put them under.

  4. Amy,

    Yep indeed, the Levites were specially appointed by God for a particular time and for a particular purpose and He created the system of tithing to provide for them. I hope and pray for more people to come to understand this.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that there is no need for pastors, because the Apostle Paul said that God has given pastors as part of the body of Christ. However, I will say that the church has made a terrible mistake in equating or likening the office of the Levites with that of pastors and churches. There truly is nothing in the body of Christ that is anything like what the Levites were.

    And indeed, you pointed out that we are ALL priests. There is no one in the church who is above anyone else, nor whose way of ministering to others is more worthy of "pay" than anyone else's.

  5. Hi Joel,
    My wife and I are also really enjoying this post series, we are still in a state of emerging from a "drilled in" legalistic state. We know the concept of grace, embrace it, but still fight with our minds and the enemy's taunts of imperfection. I say all of that to say, it is a battle being won, and that Christ, through valuable brothers and sisters who post to this site, is the champion of that battle. Thanks again and many blessings,
    Ron W.
    By the way we have a mutual friend, Dave Lesniak, even though I do not know him real well, he has been a true blessing.

  6. Hi Ron!

    Don't listen to a thing Dave Lesniak tells you! LOL... Just kidding. :) He's a great friend and a great person, as I'm sure some of the others here can attest to. I just spoke with him this evening. He is always a blessing to spend time with, even if only online or on the phone.

    I can fully relate to the process of coming out of such legalism and becoming free in the grace of God! There is a lot of "unlearning" to do, and a lot of appropriating of the truth that we learn. It surely isn't a quick process. :) But it's a beautiful process, as we get to know our Father and His love better and as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

    Thanks for your comment, and I hope to stay in touch with you.

  7. Great series, Joel. I'm really enjoying it.

    The office of the Levites was different from today's pastors in another respect. They were not serving at the temple continually. They rotated and when they weren't on duty, they went back home where they had enough land to raise cattle.

    As individuals, they were not supported year round. They were supported only during their term of service. Otherwise, they worked just like everyone else.

    It's only in our modern day church that we have a pastor class that has to be supported all year round.

    I agree with you that we do need pastors, however, we certainly don't need one on every street corner. If the church was functioning as it should, I believe we would only need the occasional services of a pastor.

  8. Aida,

    Great stuff! There is so much information like this that I wish the church would pay attention to, rather than simply preaching "Malachi 3" as if it's the final word. In my studies I also noticed that some of the Levite duties changed from the time when the people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years to when they became established in cities. None of it - absolutely none of it - can be likened to that of what a New Testament pastor, prophet, apostle, teacher or evangelist does.

    And I agree with you about pastors. I think I've shared with you before that I reckon myself as called by God as a "pastor," but yet it's something that I don't walk in as my identity, and it's definitely something that I don't walk in all the time. There have been various times when I think I've been a "pastor" much more than at other times. Maybe I'll never minister as a pastor again, and maybe God will use me in that way many more times in life. The point is, to add to the truth of what you're saying, is that the "full time pastor" of today is probably not really needed if the church is functioning correctly.

    I think in many or most churches the pastor has become more of an "executive" office, rather than being a person who is simply walking in a gift as led by the Holy Spirit.