Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Healing is in God's Character and Nature

NOTE: An updated version of this article is available on my new website:

Jesus said "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." (John 14:9)

Jesus also said "I always do things that please the Father." (John 8:29)

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus came to reveal the Father to make Him known to show us what He is like.  Based on the three passages above (along with many others), I believe that we can look at the life of Jesus to learn some things about the character and nature of God, and get to know Him better. We can learn how God the Father feels about different subjects. We can see what it looks like for the Father's will to be demonstrated and obeyed perfectly on the earth.

Those are some general statements, and now I would like to be more specific.  Let us view the actions and attitudes of Jesus during His time on earth in a physical body to get a view of how God our Father feels about sickness, disease, and other physical ailments.  

Acts 10:38
...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Matthew 8:2-3
And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 8:5-6
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented." And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."

Luke 9:10-11
And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.

Matthew 14:14
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Luke 4:40
When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.

Matthew 4:24
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

For many more examples just like these, you can read through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, looking for instances where people approached Jesus that needed to be healed.  You won't find any cases of a person coming to Him in need of healing, and going away without being healed.  But, don’t just take my word for it, study it out yourself.  See what you find.

What I find is Jesus having compassion on sick people, and ministering healing to them. Healing was a large part of what He did, and it was always included in the instructions whenever He sent out people to represent Him.

In John 5:19, He says this:  "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Jesus was doing what His Father showed Him to do. All of these times that Jesus was healing people, it was the will of God the Father being acted out by God the Son...Jesus.  It was God’s will to heal people.  If we go by the accounts provided to us in the four Gospels, it looks like it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal people, because that’s what we see Jesus doing.

Are there exceptions to this?  Are there times where God’s will is for the person to remain in their sickness?  Read the Gospels and find out for yourself.

(NOTE:  If  you are thinking about Paul’s thorn right now as an exception, click here.)

There is only one place that I'm aware of the Gospels where people didn't get healed:

Mark 6:5-6

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

Notice that is says he "could" do no mighty works there. It doesn't say that he "would" do no mighty works. The implication is that He was willing, but the people were not interested because of their unbelief. If you read the preceding verses, you will see that they were offended at Him, and basically wanted nothing to do with Him. In spite of all this, He still healed a "few sick people." He can still heal people even when there is unbelief around. Just come to Him.

(A note on the word "unbelief" here: This is not the Greek word for doubt, or for little faith. It means "faith in reverse" or "believe against." These were not Christians who were struggling with doubt. These were people who "believed against" Jesus and wanted Him to go away. In spite of this, He still healed some of them.)

This is very good news, if you ask me. My God wants to heal sick people. Healing is a part of His character and nature. It is something He wants to do.

So, from now on, let us never begin with an assumption that it is not God's will for someone to be healed.  

If you pray for someone and you don't see any immediate results, don't get discouraged, but don't automatically assume it was God's will for them to be sick.  

Maybe you need to wait. Remember that the 10 lepers were healed "as they went," not while they were standing there with Jesus. (Luke 17:14)

Maybe you need to pray again. Jesus had to pray twice for the blind man in Mark 8:22-26.

Maybe you need to stop and ask for wisdom or revelation on what to do. There may be something going on that you don't know about.

Any of these choices are better than making assumptions that disagree with the life of Jesus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Authority Over Demons

Luke 9:1
Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus sends out His first group people to act as His act as His witnesses.  This is a group of 12 men that were his followers.  He gave them some instructions, and He also gave them some equipment.  Part of this equipment was power and authority over all demons.

They went out and did what Jesus had been doing...healed the sick, cast out demons, and preached the good news.

In the next chapter of Luke's gospel, we see the next part of the story.  Jesus sends out new group.

Luke 10:17-20
17  Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."
18  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
20  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

Here Jesus sent out His second team.  This was a group of 70 of His followers.  He gave them a similar set of instructions, and He also gave them the exact same equipment...including power and authority over all demons.

Notice two things in this passage (emphasis mine)
1 - The people say this:  "...the demons are subject to US in Your name."
2 - Jesus says this:  "...the spirits are subject to YOU..."

The spirits are not only subject to Jesus, but they are also subject to this group of of His followers.  These people are never called apostles or prophets or anything "special." Actually, their names are not even mentioned.  These are simply people that are believing what Jesus is saying, and then acting on it according to His instructions.  Authority over demons is not reserved for those holding a religious title or position.

Mark 16:15-17
15  And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
16  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

In this third passage, Jesus speaks to all of His followers.  This is part of what is called "the great commission."  It is given to all Christians.  Notice that Jesus gives us the same equipment that He gave the 12 and the 70.  We are given power and authority over all demons.  Demons are to be subject to all believers in His name.  This is for "those who believe."  This is not just for priests, pastors, bishops, etc.  This is for each one of us that is born again.

We have been given the permission, the right, and the power to drive out demons in the name of Jesus.  We should never be afraid of any demons.  They should be afraid of us.  We have been given authority over them by the King of the Universe...the LORD Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Acts 10:38 - Holy Spirit Power

NOTE: An updated version of this post is available on my new website. Please visit it here:

Acts 10:38 - God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

I want to break this down into two parts.

PART 1:  "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power..."

Jesus is God.  He was God throughout eternity past, and He is God throughout eternity in the future.  Omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (everywhere at once), and omniscient (all wise and all knowing).

However, 2000 years ago He took on the limits of being a human, and He came to rescue fallen humanity.  Part of this rescue mission involves Him subjecting Himself to the limitations of the human existence (Philippians 2:5-8).

For example, while He was on the earth in a human body...

  • He had to walk from place to place.  He was not exercising His omnipresence.
  • He had to grow in wisdom (Luke 2:52).  He was not exercising His omniscience.
  • He got tired and hungry (John 4:6).  He was not exercising His omnipotence.

Even though He is God, He put himself in our shoes and made Himself subject to our limitations.  We actually don't know much of the first 30 years of His life, other than the fact that He worked as a carpenter, and He had a remarkable grasp of the scriptures.

Then, on the day He was baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit fell on Him (Luke 3:21-22), and He began to do things that ordinary people can't do.

Before this day, there are zero miracles done by Jesus in the bible.  After this day, there are multitudes of miracles done by Jesus in the bible.

Look at the way the people in His hometown reacted:

Mark 6:1-3 - Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.  When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph,Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Their reaction shows that something was VERY different now.  They were not used to Him teaching and doing miracles.

We are told in Luke 4:14 and Luke 4:18 that Jesus is now walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and that is the reason for the sudden change.  When the Holy Spirit came on Him, Jesus went from living within the limits of a "regular person" (and I say that reverently) to living as a regular person who has the Spirit of God working through Him to demonstrate miraculous power.

This is exciting news for the rest of us, because it is the same Holy Spirit that lives in every believer.  The Holy Spirit is God, and He wants to do the same things with us that He did with Jesus.  He wants to use us to demonstrate the power of God.

PART 2:  "...who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, and that's what He wants us to do too.  What would Jesus do?  He would do good and heal all who are oppressed of the devil.

Jesus didn't go about telling the sick people that God made them sick to teach them patience or to deepen their piety.

He demonstrated the power of God with authority.  He commanded sickness to leave.  He commanded people's bodies to be healed.  He commanded demons to go.

Jesus healed sick people, and he cast demons out of people that were under demonic influence.  This is called "healing all who were oppressed by the devil."

Notice that sickness is not from God. Sickness is oppression from the devil. God made earth an mankind without sickness. There was no disease in the garden of Eden. Sickness became a part of our life on earth when Adam sinned and gave his dominion away to the devil. Sickness is not part of God's plan for your life.  It is a part of the devil's plan for your life.  God's plan is that we drive out sickness by the power of the same Holy Spirit that worked in Jesus....the same Holy Spirit that lives in each of us who believe.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and he gave us the authority to do the same.  He said that we would do the same works that he did, and even greater works because He was returning to His Father (John 14:12).  When Jesus returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He poured out the Holy Spirit on the church (Acts 2:33), and then they starting doing the same things Jesus had been doing.

Somewhere through history, it seems like a lot of the church has forgotten about this.  May we all wake up and realize our inheritance.  And not only realize it, but actually start taking advantage of it.

Ephesians 1:17-18 ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tongues...what are we saying?

NOTE: A newer version of this post is available at my new website. Please visit it here:
What are we saying when we are speaking in tongues?  Here are a few examples:

Acts 10:44-46
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered...

1 Corinthians 14:15-17
15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?
17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Ephesians 5:18-19
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Speaking in tongues is a wonderful way to praise and glorify the Lord.  It allows your spirit (the part of you that was born again...John 3:3-5) to give glory and honor to God in ways that you are not capable of when you are limited by your fallen human intellect.  This is likely a part of what Jesus was talking about in John 4, when He told the woman at the well "the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."

Personally, this is one of my favorite ways to worship Jesus.  It gives me a way to express things to Him with my spirit that go beyond mental abilities.  Sometimes, I just run out of words in my natural mind, so I go into the spirit and give Him glory supernaturally.  It is awesome.

1 Corinthians 14:15
15What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.

Ephesians 6:18
...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--

Romans 8:26-27
26Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Speaking in tongues gives you a way to pray when you need to go beyond your rational thoughts.  When you don't know how to pray, or even what to pray for, then pray in the spirit.  That is one of the reasons God gives us this ability.  He knows that we need it, and He wants us to use it.

I use this very often, and often I get to see tangible results.  Through praying in tongues, I can receive insight and wisdom for different situations.  It is tool that God has given me to use when these situations arise.  Sometimes I see things in a new light, sometimes I get revelation on things I didn't even know I was asking about, which is extremely exciting and awe-inspiring..  This is because I am praying with my spirit, and not with my brain.  There are things that are revealed to us in our spirit that our natural minds do not comprehend without some supernatural assistance (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).

We should take Paul's advice.  We should pray in tongues, and we should pray in English (or whatever your natural language is).  It is good to do both.  It is biblical to do both.  It is effective to do both.

Acts 2:,11b
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance....
11b..."we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

1 Corinthians 14:2
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries (Greek musterion:  the hidden wisdom of God).

There will be times when you are speaking in tongues that you are announcing how awesome our God is.  You may also be declaring His wisdom into a situation.  You are making declarations that our God is mighty, and you are speaking His will out into the earth.

Sometimes, even though you can't understand it, you can tell when you are doing this because of what is going on inside of you, and because of the way your speech changes tone.  You will notice that you are not speaking in a way that sounds like you are asking for help.  Instead, you are speaking with authority and you sense that something powerful is happening.  It can sometimes be accompanied by strong emotion and forcefulness, almost like the way a police office would deal with a criminal who is resisting arrest.  This can difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced it, but if you have done this before you will know exactly what I am talking about.  

So, these were three general descriptions of things you might be doing when you are speaking in tongues.  Praying in the spirit is not limited to these three, but these cover a large part of what is going on while you do it.  The more you pray in the spirit, the more you will experience each of these.  All of them are great, and all of them are for us to use in our life.  Our Father has given us a wonderful gift that is also an effective tool and a powerful weapon.  I hope that you will make use of it to the glory of God.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit - For All Believers

NOTE:  An updated version of this post is available on my new website.  Click here to read it:

Have you ever wondered if the Baptism with the Holy Spirit (and the ability to speak in tongues that comes with it) is available to all believers?

Are you wondering if it is available to you?

Consider the following two stories from the bible, and hopefully they will help you find the answer.  (By the way, the answer is yes!)

In Acts 1, we see Jesus spending time with His followers after the resurrection.  He spends 40 days with them before He ascends from into heaven.  Some of His last words before leaving are recorded for us in verses 5-8.  Jesus tells His followers that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.

Acts 1:5 - "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

After saying this, the bible says that He ascended up into a cloud and was seen no more.  Then, later on in that same chapter, after His ascension, we are told that there were about 120 people present in the group of believers.  The members of this group included:

  • the 11 apostles (Peter, John, etc)
  • Mary the mother of Jesus
  • The brothers of Jesus (James, Jude, etc)
  • lots of other people

Moving on into the story, in the next chapter, we see the whole group receiving the Holy Spirit baptism ten days later on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-4 - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Notice in verse four is says that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  All of them.  Not just the apostles...not just the leaders or other "special" people.  It came to each one of them.  They all received it.

There were no exceptions.

Nobody was left out.

It was available to everyone present.

This is the start of the Christian church, and we can plainly see that 100 percent of the members received the baptism with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  This means that Mary spoke in tongues.  It also means that all of the writers of the New Testament spoke in tongues, with the possible (though very unlikely) exceptions of Mark and Luke.

This story we just discussed from Acts 1 and 2 is the first time the Holy Spirit baptism occurred in the history of the world, and so obviously this is the first time it is mentioned in the bible..

If we skip ahead to Acts 19, we can read about the last time it is mentioned in the bible, and see if we get the same results.

In Acts 19:1-7, Paul comes across some men that had been disciples of John the Baptist.  John the Baptist preached about repentance, and he talked about the coming messiah..  Since these men were disciples of his, we can assume that this is probably the state of mind of these men.  They have repented, and they are looking forward to the messiah who is coming soon.

Paul has a short conversation with them, and tells them about Jesus..the Messiah has come!  They believe and get  baptized in water.  After that, Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit baptism and they all speak in tongues.

In this story, it says there are about 12 men present.  So, 12 out of 12 receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  12 out of 12 speak in tongues.  100  percent of the believers receive the Holy Spirit baptism and speak in tongues.

There were no exceptions.

Nobody was left out.

It was available to everyone present.

And if you are a born-again Christian, then it is available to you too.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Why Speak in Tongues?

NOTE:  An updated version of this post is available on my new website.  Click on this link to read it:

Here are some reasons the bible gives for speaking in tongues

1 Corinthians 14:14 - For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

Speaking in tongues allows your spirit to speak using your vocal chords. Your spirit is the part of you that was born again as a new creationrighteous and holy.  This means that you are actually praying and declaring things that are free from the influence of sin.  
Additionally, this is a spiritual exercise that gives your spirit greater influence in your life.  It gives you a chance to practice spiritual actions in a tangible way. This alone is good enough reason to speak in tongues as much as possible, and I believe it is one of the reasons that Paul the apostle said "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you."

1 Corinthians 14:2For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

Speaking in tongues give you a way to speak to God that goes beyond your mental abilities.  You can pray with your spirit, without being limited by your intellect..  

1 Corinthians 14:2 - For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

The word that is translated "mysteries" is a Greek word that means the hidden wisdom of God that has not been revealed yet.  Praying in tongues allows you to speak God's wisdom over the situation you are praying about, without being limited by your ability to comprehend it.

1 Corinthians 14:4 - One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

When you speak in tongues, you are "edifying" yourself.  It is a way to strengthen or build yourself up that works supernaturally.  When you need strength, you can receive it by speaking in tongues.

Jude 20-21(NET)  But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, maintain yourselves in the love of God, while anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings eternal life.

Speaking in tongues is a faith building exercise, since it can only be done by faith.  Every time you do it, you are operating in faith, and your faith is strengthened as a result.  It is also a way to "maintain yourself in the love of God."  This is also translated "keep yourselves in the love of God."  

Ephesians 6:18 - ...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints

This passage comes at the end of a section in Ephesians where Paul is giving instructions on how to "be strong in the Lord" and to "stand against the wiles of the devil."  The instructions include putting on the whole armor of God.  Praying in tongues is a powerful tool for us to use in spiritual warfare.

Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Praying in the spirit provides a new way for the Holy Spirit to aid you when you don't know how or what to pray.  He works in you helping you pray the things that are needed, even if you don't know what those things are.  This passage is also another example of a reason to pray in tongues when you are weak.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tithing or Giving

There are many different types of offerings described in the bible.  In the Old Testament, instructions are given for tithes, wave offerings, heave offerings, burnt offerings, first fruits,  and sin offerings, just to mention a few.  In the New Testament, instructions are given for free will offerings, and for being generous and sharing with others.  

Problems and confusion come in when you mix and match the different offerings and their associated instructions, selecting which parts to keep and which parts to ignore.  The purpose of this study is to examine the offering known as tithing, giving an overview of the practice as it is defined in the bible.

Before I begin, I want to be clear about my intention in writing this. It is aimed at people who are struggling with difference between tithing under the Old Covenant, and giving under the New Covenant.  

The questions I am hoping to answer are:  What is tithing?  Is it just another word for giving? Are Christians supposed to tithe? If so, how does it work? Do any (or all) of the rules for tithing in the Old Testament apply to Christians today?

Here is what I used to think:

We are to give God our first fruit...a tenth of our gross income.  It should be the starting point, but we can and should go beyond that with freewill offerings.  The tithe should be the first line item in our budget.  It is a way to thank God for what he has provided for us.  We are to give our tithe to our local church/assembly, or to the Christian organization or individual(s) who are “feeding” us.  There are blessings that come to us when we tithe, and many times those are financial blessings that come in a variety of ways, both natural and supernatural.  Tithing is a principle that precedes the Law (Abraham with Melchizidek in Genesis 14), and even Jesus told people to tithe (Mat 23).  Even if someone doesn’t have enough money to pay their bills, they should still tithe on their income, and trust God or the church to help fill in the gap.

During my study of this subject, I have found that the tithe is something very different than what I just described.  Giving generously is good, but it is not the same thing as tithing. I will take a few passages and point out some areas where corrections were in order for me.

One of the first things I learned was that the biblical description for tithing is quite complex, and there is not consensus even among Jewish scholars on some of the details.  In this study, I am not attempting to explain every jot and tittle.  Instead, I hope to give an overview that briefly explains the main points, and how those points agree or differ with what is generally taught today.

Depending on how you count them, there are three different tithes that were used for three different purposes.  I will cover those three, and then add some additional information afterwards. I will divide this document into the following categories:

1 - Levitical Tithe
2 - Priest Tithe
3 - Festival Tithe
4 - Abram and Melchizedek
5 - Jacob’s Vow
6 - Tithing in Christian History
7 - New Testament Christian Giving
8 - Summary

Sections 1-3 are the three different tithes, and the remaining sections contain other information relevant to the topic that I found interesting.

1 - The Levitical Tithe

(a tithe for support of the Levites)

Numbers 18:21-24
21 “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.
22 Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.
23 But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
24 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; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’”

Leviticus 27:30-33
30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD.
31 If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it.
32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.
33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”

A Levite is defined as a descendant of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel.  The Levites were not given an inheritance in the land of Israel, but they were provided for by other means.   Many of the different offerings that people brought to the Lord were actually used as food for the Levites.  This “Levitical Tithe” is one of these offerings, along with the heave offerings, wave offerings, meat offerings, and so on.

According to this passage, one tenth of the tither’s produce and livestock was to be set aside to provide food for the Levites.   However, if the tither wanted to keep the food, he was allowed to give the value of the food in money, as long as he added “a fifth” to it (v 31).  This means you could keep your goats if you gave 120% of their value in money as a replacement.

Note that the tither can give money in place of food in this case, but he would have to pay an extra 20%.   So, this
tithe is not ten percent of all of your income.  It is only ten percent of your produce and livestock (or the value in money plus 20%).  In fact, you will find that all three categories of the commanded tithes consisted of food, and not money.  This is an important point to remember, and it is consistent in every passage where instructions are given, including the “mint, dill, and cumin” that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 23.  There were many other sources of income in those days, but there are no instructions for craftsmen, for example, to give a tenth of their paycheck.

It is also interesting to look at the way the animals are supposed to be chosen for the tithe.   Consider these two verses again from Levicus 27:

32 And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.
33 He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.’”

The tither is specifically instructed not to choose the best animal, or the first animal.  Whatever cow goes under the rod in tenth place is the one that goes to the Levites.  So, if the tither were to go out and pick the best cow for the tithe, then technically he would be acting in disobedience.

Also consider that if the tither only has nine cows, then he is not supposed to give anything.  If he only had a few animals, he was not required to give at all.

If you do not raise livestock, or if you do not own a farm or a garden, then you are exempt from this tithe.  Remember, there were other professions in the days when these commands were given (weavers, blacksmiths, craftsmen, laborers, etc), and there are other offerings besides the tithe that provided nearly all people the opportunity to participate in giving in some way.

How would this tithe be applied today?  Farmers and gardeners would give food to the Levites for support while they are busy doing their Levitical duties in and around temple and the land of Israel.  However, since there is no temple, and there are no practicing Levites, there is no one that can rightfully receive this tithe.  In fact, tithing is no longer observed in Judaism.  You can verify this (as I did) by calling your local synagogue and asking them if they practice tithing.  The answer will be no.  The covenant people that received the command to tithe no longer practice tithing.

2 - The Priest Tithe

(the tithe given to the Priests from the Levites)

25 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
26 “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe.
27 And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress.
28 Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the LORD’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest.
29 Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’
30 Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress.
31 You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting.
32 And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”

The Levites were to set apart a tenth of what they had received from the people (the Levitical tithe), and give that tenth to the priests.  A priest is defined as a descendant of Aaron.  Since Aaron was a Levite, the priests are actually a subset of the Levites.  They were the ones who did most of their work in the actual tabernacle.

In contrast to the previous instructions, the Levites were told to choose the best of everything they had received from the people, and use that as a tithe to the priests.  Note the end of this passage, where there is a stern warning to the Levites regarding how this tithe is handled.  This should give some perspective to the often misapplied quote from Malachi 3:8-12, where the Levites appear to be the primary focus of the rebuke.

This practice is no longer in place today for reasons similar to the Levitical tithe.  There are no practicing Levites, so there is no Levitical tithe.  Therefore, there is no tithe from the Levites to the priests.

3 - The Festival Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:22-29
22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.
23 And
you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you,
25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
26 And
you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates.
29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

According to this passage, this tithe is defined as a tenth of the increase of the tither’s livestock and produce that he is to set aside for specific purposes.  The actual use of the tithe is described in this passage as a cycle of three years.  

Years 1 and 2 (v 23-26):  The tither is supposed to set aside a tenth of the increase of his produce and livestock, and take it with him as he goes to the place the Lord chooses.  Then he and the members his household will eat it themselves.  He is not to give this tithe away to anyone.  If the destination is too far away, or if it is too difficult or cumbersome to transport all of the food, then he can sell it and just carry the money instead.  When he arrives at the place of the feast, he can buy whatever his heart desires...even alcohol (wine).  He and his family are supposed to have a celebration with this tithe, and he should also be willing share it with the Levites who are there.   Year 3:(v 27-28)  The tither is supposed to give a tithe away to Levites, orphans, widows, and people who need help.

Here are some points to consider about the festival tithe:

1 - If we are supposed to be tithing, then it appears that we have been neglecting a large part of the instructions, especially the part about using our tithe to hold a celebration.

2 - This tithe is not money, but it can be exchanged for money to make travel easier.  The actual tithe itself is actually just food from your gardens and fields.  

Since Christians are not instructed to keep the feasts of Israel (Colossians 2:16), then this tithe does not apply to Christians either.

The Law was not a set of suggestions that could be modified as needed depending on the circumstances.  The instructions for the tithe is a part of the Law, and it is a command for those under the Law.  It makes no sense to those that are not participating in the Old Testament system of Levites, priests, and festivals because it has no purpose outside of that context.

That concludes the definitions of the three different tithes that the Lord instructed the Israelites to observe.  Next is a collection of other topics that relate to the subject of tithing.

4 - Abram and Melchizedek

Genesis 14:18-24
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
19 And he blessed him and said:

     “ Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
     Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
     Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

  And he gave him a tithe of all.
21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,

23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— 2
4 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

In this story, Abram has gone to battle to rescue his nephew who had been kidnapped.  Abram was successful, and as part of his victory he won various spoils and captives.

In the passage above, Abram meets a priest who blesses him.  Abram responds by giving the priest a tithe (tenth) of all of the spoils of the victory, and then giving the other 90 percent of the spoils to the people who went with him to battle.  He kept nothing for himself.

Since this story happened long before the Law (and the included ordinances concerning tithing) was given, this passage is sometimes used to imply that tithing is an eternal principle that exists outside of the Law and applies to us today.

Here are some points to consider before agreeing with that theory::

1 - Abram was not commanded to give this tithe.
2 - Abram gave away 100 percent of his “increase.” 10% to Melchizedek, and 90% to other people.
3 - Abram did not return to Salem and repeat this offering weekly, monthly, annually, or ever again as far as we know.
4 - Circumcision also predates the giving of the Law, but circumcision is not required of Christians.  So, the fact that a practice predates the Law has no bearing on whether or not it should apply Christians.

5 - Jacob’s Vow
Genesis 28:20-22
20 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,
21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.
22 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.”

In contrast to the commands in the law, and to the example of Abram and Melchizedek,  Jacob sets the conditions of a bargain he is attempting to make with God.  He is saying that if God will give him the things asks for, he will respond by giving a tenth of what he is provided with.

In my opinion, this behavior is not a standard we should emulate. We are not in a position that we make bargains with God. That is not the way our relationship with Him works.

6 - Tithing in Christian History

According to the Catholic encyclopedia, tithing was not introduced into Christianity until the sixth century.  Here is a quote from the encyclopedia that shows the reason it was introduced.

In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Corinthians 9:13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers. In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the canons of the Council of Ma├žon in 585. In course of time, we find the payment of tithes made obligatory by ecclesiastical enactments in all the countries of christendom. The Church looked on this payment as "of divine law, since tithes were instituted not by man but by the Lord Himself" (C. 14, X de decim. III, 30).
-from the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry for tithes

Tithing as we know it today in Christianity was put in place to help finance the expansion of the “various institutions” and to help support the clergy.  Christianity survived 500+ years without putting a system of tithing on the believers.

7 - New Testament Christian Giving

A full study on this topic is beyond the scope of this document.  However, Paul gives us some good principles of free will giving in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.  I will attempt to summarize it briefly below, but I encourage you to read those chapters on your own and form your own opinion.  As you read, look for answers to these three related questions:

1 - What was the purpose of the giving?
2 - What is the proper motive for the giving?  
3 - Were they told to give ten percent of their income to their local church body?

Paul was taking up a collection to help believers in Jerusalem that were facing difficult times.  He was writing to the believers in Corinth to encourage them to participate in giving.  They were instructed to give whatever they had decided in their hearts to give.  They were not told to give ten percent of their income, and they were not accused of robbing God.  Instead, they were specifically told not to give under compulsion or of necessity, but rather to be generous and to be happy about it.

In this example, they were sharing with believers who needed financial assistance because of severe persecution.  And, though the specific details are different, the motive and spirit of the giving is very similar to what we see in Acts 2:42-47.  People are taking care of one another in love for God and love for one another.

Ministers are also included as recipients of generosity at times (Galatians 6:6), though Paul himself seemed to make efforts to avoid relying on this personally (1 Corinthians 9:1-18).   Using Paul as an example, there were times when he was supported by others, and there were times when he supported himself.  I believe that tells us that both scenarios are appropriate, depending on the circumstances.  It is good for person being ministered to to share, and it is also good for the person doing the ministering to be able to support himself if that option is available.

To sum this up, we can say that the New Testament teaches us to be generous and willing to share with each other when needs arise.  And, if a man (or woman) is being used by God to pour into your life, then it is good for you to share good things with him too.  We are encouraged to be generous, but none of this should be done out of compulsion.

It should be stressed again here that these practices are a completely different from tithing.  Giving and sharing and being generous are principles that are a part of the Christian walk.  Tithing, however, is not.  Tithing is for the age of the Law, where there were Levites, priests, and Jewish feasts and festivals.

8 - Summary

When you consider the purpose for the different tithes as laid out the bible, you can see that these practices would not apply to Christians, especially the Gentile Christians.  It was not practiced by the early church for several centuries.  This accounts for the fact that instructions for tithing are absent from the Epistles, and the fact that tithing was not even included in the letter from the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

The modern day version of tithing appears to be a mix of some parts of the tithe, some parts of other Old Testament offerings, and some parts of the New Testament concept of free will giving.  
This mix has apparently evolved over time and is now part of an unbiblical tradition that is has found its way into many Christian assemblies.