Is It Correct To Return Tithe To Any Organization Or Individual Who Claims To Be Doing The Work Of The Lord?
Money is one of those things that we consider
ours in a particular way. It represents
the fraction of our lives that we accumulate through
the investment of our energy and time. It is life preserved
in liquid form; that is to say, we exchange it for almost any
goods we may want or enjoy. Therefore we usually don’t
want others to tell us how to use it or what to do with it.
For believers, life is a gift from God, whether in the form of
the breath of life or in the form of money. Therefore, it is
to be used to the glory of God. With these comments as a
background, let me address your specific concern.
1. The Owner of Tithe: Tithe is a percentage of the money
that reaches us as the result of the investment of our
time and energy. It is therefore natural to conclude that it is
ours and that we should decide how to administer it. Here
the Scripture surprises us by making a claim that is scientifically
unverifiable. Tithe—the 10 percent of our income
or increase—belongs to the Lord: “A tithe . . . belongs to
the Lord [leYahweh]; it is holy to the Lord [leYahweh]” (Lev.
27:30, NIV). From the human point of view, all income is
the result of the investment of our time and energy. Yet this
text rejects that conclusion by indicating that a portion of
our income/increase is fundamentally different from the
rest of it. It is described by the Lord as “holy.” In this passage
divine ownership is clearly emphasized by using the
Hebrew preposition le (“belonging to”) two times, along
with the word “holy.” The “holy” designates that which God
set apart for His divine purpose that, therefore, belongs to
Him. We do not consecrate tithe to the Lord; the Lord has
already declared it holy. He has placed in our hands something that is holy, and we are sanctified when we, in obedience
to His will, use it the way He intended us to use it.
2. Determining Proper Use: Once we acknowledge that
tithe belongs to the Lord, the next questions would be: Who
has the authority to determine its purpose; and who should
receive it? The answer is obvious. If it belongs to God, He
is the one who defines its purpose and destination. This
was clearly the case in the Old Testament. “I give to the
Levites all the tithes in Israel … for the work they do while
serving at the Tent of Meeting” (Num. 18:21, NIV). Tithe is
assigned by the Lord to a specific group within His people,
and its purpose is to pay them for the work they do at the
sanctuary on behalf of the people, a work assigned to them
3. God Established a System: Not only were the purpose
and use of tithe determined by God as the owner of
tithe, but also the system through which tithe reached those
appointed to receive it. The Israelites were to separate their
tithe at home and bring it to the house of the Lord for the
Levites (Num. 18:24; Mal. 3:10). The “storehouse” refers
to rooms in the Temple employed to store the tithe that was
to be distributed among the Levites. In other words, people
were not free to give their tithe to whomever they wanted,
or to deposit it in any other place except the Temple. Specific
persons were in charge of collecting and distributing
it to the Levites and priests (2 Chron. 31:12, 13, 15, 16).
In the church tithe is to be used only by those recognized
by the church to be God’s appointed instruments in the
proclamation of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:13, 14).
We are expected to return tithe to the church through its
local treasury, not send it to individuals or groups who run
their own personal religious businesses. Let God’s tithe be
used by the Lord as He intended it: for the fulfillment of the
mission of His church.
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is retired after a career of service as a
pastor, professor, and theologian. He is a former director of the
Biblical Research Institute. This answer is used by permission.