Since the apostasy at the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG), many no longer believe that they need to tithe or collect second tithe. And some who still do no longer believe that they need to contribute what had been referred to as 'third tithe.' Are they correct? Is this what the Bible teaches?
As far as tithing goes, in general, please check out the article Tithing Questions and Some Answers. This article's focus is on second and third tithe.
And as far as second and third tithe, we will start in the Bible and also look at some limited historical accounts.
Here is some information on second tithe:
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. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27, NKJV)
Here is some information on third tithe:
28 "And at the end of every third year you shall bring out a tithe of your produce of that year and store it 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 will bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
God specifically calls this tithe a "holy tithe" (Deuteronomy 26:13). Because of the seventh 'year of release/rest' (Leviticus 25:1-7), third tithe was collected only for years three and six of a seven year cycle (the cycle was based upon the 'civil year' in the Hebrew calendar and began with the first day of the seventh month of Tishri; see also The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets?).
Interestingly, immediately after Deuteronomy 14:29, the Bible discusses the seventh year of release and also make provisions for the poor:
1 "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord's release. 3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother, 4 except when there may be no poor among you; for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance — 5 only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you. (Deuteronomy 15:1-6)
Thus, since there were no chapter breaks in the original Hebrew text, you can see that the third tithe is somewhat tied to the every seven year release of debts. And the children of Israel paid third tithe during years three and six of the seven year cycle.
Though some have disputed whether or not the children of Israel paid more than one tithe, the expression tithes (the plural of tithe) is used 17 times in the Old Testament.
The fact that there are multiple tithes mentioned in the Bible is also confirmed in the New Testament from a Pharisee who stated:
12 "I give tithes of all I possess" (Luke 18:12).
In the Book of Hebrews it shows that, "those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law" (7:5) and that Abraham paid tithes (vs. 9). In addition, Jewish historian Josephus wrote in the first century,
"Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year, a third tithe to be distributed to those that want" (Antiquities of the Jews. Book IV, Chapter VIII, Paragraph 22).
Another secular writer confirmed this as it is written in Tobit 1:6-8 (a non-canonical ancient book):
"Taking the first fruits and the tithes of my produce and the first shearings, I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar. Of all my produce I would give a tenth to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem; a second tenth I would sell, and I would go and spend the proceeds each year at Jerusalem; the third tenth I would give to those to whom it was my duty".
A Presbyterian minister wrote:
Tithing was built into the foundation of Israel's way of life. "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord" (Lev. 27:30).
The word tithe means "a tenth part." Tithing means 10 percent. For Israel, however, tithing was really only a start.
There were three "tithes" collected from Israel—one to support priests and Levites (Num. 18:21); another for a sacred celebration (Deut. 14:23); and a third—collected only once every three years—to support the poor, orphans, and widows (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12-13). So the actual income percentage given was closer to 23 than 10. (Ortberg J. Tithing: Law or a Grace? The place of giving in the gospel. Christianity Today: Leadership Journal. Spring 2013. http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2013/spring/tithing-law-or-grace.html):
The Benson Commentary also understands this:
Deuteronomy 14:22-23. Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed — There were three sorts of tithes to be paid from the people, besides those from the Levites to the priests; 1st, To the Levites for their maintenance, Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21. These were to be eaten where they dwelt, (Numbers 14:31,) and therefore to be paid there. 2d, For the Lord’s feasts and sacrifices, to be eaten by the offerers at Jerusalem: these are here intended. 3d, Besides these two, there was to be every third year a tithe for the poor, to be eaten at their own dwellings, Deuteronomy 14:28-29. That thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God — That thou mayest not only be accustomed to the worship of Jehovah thy God, but mayest become truly pious. For the fear of God was taught in that place of his public worship, and the very presenting themselves before him was a good means to keep them in awe of him.
Other ancient historical sources, such as the Septuagent (mid-second century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Book of Jubilees (a mid-second century B.C. pseudepigraphical work), describe multiple tithes. Later Greco-Roman church writers Jerome (ca. 347-420, primary translator of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible) and Chrysostom (347-407) also taught that the Israelites gave multiple tithes.
The Bible itself states:
12 "When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year--the year of tithing--and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then shall you say before the LORD your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which you have commanded me: I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You commanded me. 15 Look down from Your holy habitation and bless Your people Israel and the land which you have given us, just as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey'"(Deuteronomy 26:12-15).
Of course, those who do not pay third tithe cannot pray this. Third tithe was historically paid in years 3 and 6 of the seven year cycle (with the seventh year a land sabbath, Leviticus 25:4; also called the seventh year of debt release in Deuteronomy 15:1) and this fiscal-year began with one of the fall holy days (there is controversy surrounding which). The tithe for the third year also seems to be mentioned in Amos 4:4 (KJV/NIV).
The New Testament shows that certain widows still need to be provided for:
3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 5 Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. (1 Timothy 5:3-7)
Jesus taught, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8 ).
The concept of second and third tithe was something that Herbert Armstrong claimed in his 12/17/83 sermon was one of the truths he restored to the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. He claimed that this was one of the truths that the Sardis era did not have, but that at least one of the earlier eras of the Church of God had.
The Bible teaches the following about second tithe and the Feast of Tabernacles:
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. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27, NKJV).
Most Christians who observe the Feast of Tabernacles save 10% of their income to finance this. They also point to those verses in Deuteronomy to show that they are to feast and rejoice during this time, which they feel points to the millennial time when Jesus will reign on the Earth for a thousand years. A time they say will be filled with great prosperity--a glimpse of which they get when they spend approximately 10% of their annual income for an eight-day (plus travel time) festival (sometimes, portions of that 10% are used for the other biblical holy days).
The Catholic saint and doctor Jerome was around at the end portion of the Smyrna era of the Church of God. A Catholic report interestingly stated:
St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance. (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p. 202).
Since those that Jerome spoke of tied the Feast of Tabernacles in with the millennial prosperity, it may well be because they continued to collect and use second tithe into the Smyrna era of the Church of God. Those that do not collect and use second tithe tend to NOT attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles.
Here is a quote explaining why WCG used to believe that at least part of the Thyatira era of the Church paid third tithe:
"The three-part division of tithes paid the Waldensian Church is significant. Even in the 1500's the same division continued. "The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients (the elders), and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor" (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, "History of the Waldenses"). 1. Compare this practice with Num. 18:21 and Deut. 14:22-25, 28-29. Isn't it exactly what the Bible commands?... Most authors have ASSUMED the "wayfaring men" were the traveling "barbel." But THEIR expenses would have been paid from the money given the elders, at EVERY time of year, for the direct conduct of the Work -- "first" tithe and offerings. Notice that in Numbers 18:21. What Morel then mentions is a "second" tithe, for those traveling to and from the festivals -- wayfaring men; and following it, the "third" to the poor. See the explanation in Deut. 14. Feast goers who had more "second tithe" than they needed shared their excess with those who had need, even as they do today! (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).
We in the Continuing Church of God follow basically the same practices in the 21st century.
The late evangelist Leroy Neff wrote:
Observing the Feast in the manner indicated in Deuteronomy 14:22-26 requires more than minimal funding. We are commanded here to “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.” This is a picture of the abundance of the world tomorrow. God’s Word especially emphasizes spending this tithe on the Feast and Last Great Day, though it is certainly valid to use a lesser portion of it for the other holy days. ...
In budgeting our festival tithe, we should consider those whose circumstances in life have made it impossible for them to attend the Feast without assistance. Helping needy members attend is a practice we definitely intend to continue. To help these individuals be with us at the Feast, many contribute excess second tithe after the festival season is over. Most who attend the Feast are able to afford to contribute to this fund with proper planning. Along with contributing excess second tithe, a practice was established long ago of giving a tenth of our second tithe—a tithe of the tithe—to the Church to pay for the many expenses it incurs in providing so much of what we enjoy at the Feast. These expenses include hall rent, office equipment, audio and video equipment, etc. If you send a contribution to the Festival Assistance Fund to help the needy or a tithe of your tithe to help pay for the cost of holding the Feast, please indicate your intent.
In the days of the old Radio Church of God, basically a decision was made to encourage members to send in one tenth of their festival tithe to support costs associated with putting on the Feast of Tabernacles. Part of the rationale seemed to be based on the view that if this was not done, tithes and offerings would have to be diverted from proclaiming the gospel in order to pay for expenses associated with the Feast of Tabernacles. This was not considered to be ideal (cf. Acts 6:2-4).
The practice of giving a tenth of our second tithe—a tithe of the tithe—is to help the church to pay for the many expenses incurred in providing so much of what we need at the Feast. These expenses include hall rent, etc. Since the Bible itself teaches to not 'forsake the Levite' in Deuteronomy 14:27, the idea that some of the festival tithe should pay for ministerial-related expenses has biblical support. It perhaps should be clarified that if one does not have sufficient second tithe in order to do that and properly attend the Feast of Tabernacles, we certainly do not expect any in that situation to send that. Perhaps, it should be mentioned that the Levites themselves paid a type of tithe of the tithe in ancient times (Nehemiah 10:38-39).
And, of course, various scriptures discuss the idea of looking out for others and the poor. In budgeting our festival tithe, we ought to consider those whose circumstances in life have made it impossible for them to attend the Feast without assistance.
Helping needy members attend the Feast of Tabernacles is a practice Christians should encourage. To help these individuals be at the Feast, in addition to the tithe of the tithe, some may contribute excess second tithe after the festival season is over, which will help next year. We in the Continuing Church of God do provide support to various poor people, mainly in Africa, to attend the Feast of Tabernacles.
As the scriptures in Deuteronomy show, the primary purpose of this third tithe was to provide for the Levites. Secondarily, it was to help support the "the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates". Most who do not believe that third tithe is required anymore like to say that the government has taken over these responsibilities. Others, who cited a decision made by Herbert Armstrong to exempt some in countries outside the USA, say there is no reason that Americans should have to pay third tithe (whether this exemption is or was correct will not be the subject of this article).
Since I live in the USA, I would like to confine the following comments to the USA. First, in spite of various government programs, there are often gaps which do not always cover those four groups mentioned in Deuteronomy. Second, while Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, the US ministry did not pay into Social Security (in the US it is possible for religious organizations to be totally or partially exempt). Thirdly, the WCG did not have and through the end of the 20th century did not have (according to the 11/2000 issue of the Worldwide News) a compulsory retirement system.
This means that many of those who were (or still are) faithful in the ministry do not have Social Security or similar programs to support them. Also, there are many problems with the USA welfare system which means that it does not always help those in the Church of God who need assistance. Thus, the Churches of God who do not teach their members to pay third tithe are faced with the choices of 1) not properly compensating the ministry, 2) not providing third tithe assistance to those who need it, 3) not providing for a retirement for those ministers who attempted to remain faithful, and finally 4) diverting money which should have been used to proclaim the Gospel to providing this type of assistance.
Sadly, all of these have been done by those groups and individuals who no longer believe that Church members need to pay third tithe. These are the 'fruits' of not paying third tithe.
We in the Continuing Church of God do teach first, second, and third tithe.
As a general rule, is it appropriate to take resources that should be used to proclaim the Gospel and instead use it for third tithe purposes? The Book of Acts suggests that it is not.
1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:1-4).
This not only suggests that the work should not be affected for this purpose, but that providing for the widows was still needed in New Testament times by Gentiles!
Interestingly, Jesus addressed the specific issue of monetary substitution with the Pharisees,
3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" — 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:3-9).
Thus, Jesus' words suggest that He did not endorse monetary substitution practices authorized by the religious leaders of His day. Jesus also taught,
34 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).
Would He agree that third tithe need not be paid?
The book of Proverbs has a verse those who do not pay third tithe may wish to meditate on, "He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses" (Proverbs 28:27).
The Bible supports the concept that second tithe and third tithe are still valid today. Historical proof exists that multiple tithes, including third tithe, were paid by the Jews. The 'fruits' of not paying third tithe are not good.
Jesus taught, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).
The apostles felt that the work should not be hindered in administering to the widows, but that providing for the widows needed to be done. Jesus taught that humanly devised substitutes do not add up as far as God is concerned.
The logical conclusion, then, is that third tithe is a valid obligation that Christians should pay.
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