My purpose in this study was to try and learn the history of tithing and discover its current relevance in my life. So I asked of the Holy Spirit, "What exactly is a tithe (besides being defined as a tenth of something)? What's the purpose of tithing? And why has the nature of tithing seemed to have changed since Moses' time and today?"
So I looked at the Law of Moses, which I knew to be one of the earliest descriptions in the Bible of the tithe.
The first thing Leviticus 27 mentioned, was that a special vow could be made to dedicate a person to the Lord. Likewise an animal could be vowed as an offering to the Lord, and would then be considered holy. But then verse 13 said something that caught my attention.
"If the owner wishes to redeem the animal, he must add a fifth to its value."
Really? The owner could get the animal back by paying the value of the animal plus 20% to the priest? How interesting!
Next the scriptures spoke of dedicating something to the Lord. In this case it could be a house, a portion of the family land, or perhaps a field which was purchased. It was possible for the dedicated field to revert to the owner's family during the Year of Jubilee, or it could be redeemed, again by adding 20% of its value.
It wasn't until verse 30 that the tithe was mentioned. A tithe, apparently, came from the land. It didn't matter whether it was grain from the soil or fruit from a tree, it belonged to the Lord and was holy to him. Every tenth animal was also holy to the Lord.
Surprisingly, even the tithe from the ground could be redeemed. I wonder for what reason someone may wish to redeem their tithe. Did they need the resources? I asked this because at the time I was attempting to tithe while desperately needing whatever resources I had.
I had other questions, too. Why is tithing now a matter of money rather than produce from the ground? I had been told that the transition from tithing crops and flocks to a ten percent offering of currency is a modification due to the way we live now. But does it make theological sense to make that change?
It seemed to be an important point that God specified tithes come from the land. Only God can give an increase from the ground, or from animals that draw their nutrition from the ground. So it seems logical when the Bible says the tenth of these crops and offspring belongs to the Lord. Minted currency and coins don't seem to be part of the equation.