Tithes & Offerings
Throughout the Scriptures, YAHUAH gives us many laws concerning giving. Almost all of them fall in one of two categories: giving to YAHUAH or giving to the poor. We see this most clearly in the laws regarding the Yisraelite farmer. For example, the farmer is commanded to leave the corners of his field, not to reap the entire field, not to go back for forgotten sheaves, leave grapes on the vine, not to collect fallen grapes, etc. (Deb. 24:19-22). All these laws allow the farmer to make provisions for the poor. In addition, YAHUAH gives the farmer other laws such as bringing the first-fruits, giving gifts/contributions to the priests, and paying tithes to the Levites. These laws ensure that the farmer always remembers YAHUAH and puts Him first in all that he does.
Here, we will focus on the laws pertaining to gifts to YAHUAH, in particular bikurim (first-fruits), terumah (contributions), and ma’aser (tithes). We will consider these three because these three were given specifically to the priesthood. Many of the other gifts to YAHUAH were offered up on the bronze altar such as the burnt offering, sin offering, guilt offering, and peace offering. These gifts were completed in YahuShuah. Other gifts, however, were given directly to the members of the priesthood on a regular basis. These offerings and gifts continue today because the priesthood continues today.
From every harvest, the Yisraelite farmer had to give four types of gifts: bikurim (first-fruits), terumah (‘elevated’ portion), ma’aser rishon (first tithe), and ma’aser sheni or ma’aser ani (second tithe or the ‘poor’ tithe). Each of these four gifts was given to the priesthood.
(44) And on that day some were appointed over the rooms for the stores, for the contributions, for the first-fruits, and for tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the Torah for the priests and for the Lewites. For Yehud?ah rejoiced over the priests and the L?wites who stood up.
Throughout the Scriptures, YAHUAH teaches His people kedusha (set-apartness). YAHUAH requires us to be set-apart in every area of our lives, and He gave us His Laws to show us how. They show us how to be set-apart at every moment, in every place, with every person, and in every situation. First-fruits, contributions, and tithes teach us to bring kedusha into our daily work life and into our monetary habits.
The question is: do these principles (first-fruits, contributions, and tithes) still apply today? Many say “no.” They say first-fruits (bikurim) only applies to fruit grown in Yisrael and is only relevant when the Set-Apart Place is standing. They say contributions (terumah) are no longer relevant because the priesthood is in a permanent state of impurity due to the lack of a red heifer. Some say tithes (ma’aser) aren’t relevant because the Levitical priesthood no longer exists. Still others say we don’t do any of these because they only apply to crops grown in Yisrael; everything else (including money) is exempt. So, essentially, all forms of gifts to YAHUAH are cut off. Is this what YAHUAH really intends?
The Torah has not changed. It is as true and relevant today as it was yesterday, but we must look to the Spirit (principle) of the Law. If we adhere only to the Letter of the Law, we will come up with the same reasons above for not giving to YAHUAH. However, YahuShuah is the Living Torah. He brings us the Spirit of the Law, which is greater understanding of the Law. In ancient Yisrael, livestock and crops were the livelihood of the Yisraelites. YAHUAH commands us to give Him a portion of our livelihood—the means by which He gives us sustenance and support. Today, most of us are not farmers, and we live in a commercialized, industrialized society. Our livelihood does not come from crop harvests and livestock but rather from jobs and careers that pay in money. We don’t reap barley or wheat or olives but rather a weekly paycheck in dollars and cents. This is our livelihood. We give from whatever YAHUAH blesses us with to live on and sustain ourselves. One rabbi stated, “A field to a farmer is an operating room to a neurosurgeon—that’s where they make their money. So whether you work in a courtroom, coatroom, boardroom or barroom, give of everything you’ve got.” The principles of bikurim, terumah, and ma’aser are still relevant today. We still must give to YAHUAH. We must diligently give His portion from whatever He blesses us with.
(19) “Bring the first of the first-fruits of your land into the House of יהוה your Elohim. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
(12) “All the best of the oil, and all the best of the new wine and the grain – their first-fruits which they give to יהוה – I have given them to you.
(13) “The first-fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to יהוה, are yours. Everyone who is clean in your house eats it.
(1) “And it shall be, when you come into the land which יהוה your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it,
(2) that you shall take some of the first of all the fruits of the soil which you bring from your land that יהוה your Elohim is giving you, and shall put it in a basket and go to the place where יהוה your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell there.
Bikurim (בִּכּוּרֵי) means ‘first ones.’ They are the first ripened fruit of the crop. Another name for bikurim is reishit (רֵאשִׁית), which means ‘firsts.’ Bikurim was separated from grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates, and olives—the five special fruits the land of Yisrael is blessed with. At the beginning of the harvest season, the farmer would walk through his fields and look for the first fully-ripened fruit. He would select the best, choicest, most perfect fruit and tie a ribbon on it declaring it to be bikurim. Then, he’d gather all the bikurim and place them in a basket to be carried to Yerushalayim. The journey carrying bikurim to the Set-Apart Place in Yerushalayim was a great procession every year with silver and gold decorations, flute players, and lots of celebration. When they reached the outskirts of Yerushalayim, the farmers were met by officers and treasurers of the Set-Apart Place and residents of the city who greeted them with cheers. When they reached the Set-Apart Place, the Levites met them with the singing of Tehillim/Psalm 30. The farmer presented the basket to YAHUAH and gave it to the priests. The priests placed the basket of bikurim before the altar, and the farmer recited a short history of their deliverance from Mitsrayim and inheritance of the Promised Land (Deb/Deut. 26:5-10).
Bikurim was given to YAHUAH. YAHUAH gave it to the priests, His servants. Today, though we may not have crops to harvest, the principle of bikurim is still very relevant. In ancient Yisrael, the farmer toiled and labored to bring in a harvest, and from this harvest, he gave his best to YAHUAH. This shows that whatever we labor for, the fruits of our labor are gifts from YAHUAH. Without Him, we would have nothing—no matter how much we labor. We give the first of the fruits of our labor to YAHUAH in thankfulness. When we give it to Him, we realize that the material gain we labored for is not the true goal. YAHUAH blesses us with material gain so we can use it for means that will give us spiritual gain. Giving the first-fruits to YAHUAH in thankfulness draws us closer to our Father.
When the farmer journeyed to Yerushalayim, he showed his commitment to YAHUAH. When we give, we too are showing our commitment. We act on our gratitude instead of using only words or thoughts or good intentions. Giving is an act of dedication to the Father. When the farmer recited his history, he showed thankfulness for all of the blessings of YAHUAH given to him and his people. We too must show thankfulness not only for the current blessing but also for all the blessings of our past leading up to this point. Furthermore, knowing that the produce is given to the priests helps us in the area of compassion and kindness. We provide for the priests who commit themselves to YAHUAH and have no inheritance. We share the material gain YAHUAH gives us so that they too might be blessed.
(8) And יהוה spoke to Aharon, “And see, I Myself have also given you the charge of My contributions, all the set-apart gifts of the children of Yisra’?l. I have given them to you for the anointing, and to your sons, as a law forever.
(9) “This is yours of the most set-apart gifts, from the fire: all their offerings, all their grain offerings and all their sin offerings and all their guilt offerings which they render to Me, are most set-apart for you and your sons.
(10) “Eat it in the most set-apart place – every male eats it. It is set-apart to you.
(11) “This also is yours: the contribution of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Yisra’?l. I have given them to you, and your sons and daughters with you, as a law forever. Everyone who is clean in your house eats it.
(19) “All the contributions of the set-apart gifts, which the children of Yisra’el present to יהוה, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as a law forever. It is a covenant of salt forever before יהוה with you and your seed with you.”
Terumah (תּרוּמה) means ‘elevated’ or the ‘elevated portion.’ In the Scriptures, it is usually translated as contribution or gift. Terumah is the portion of the harvest given to YAHUAH Who in turn gives it to His servants, the priests. It was separated from the wheat, wine, and oil harvests. At the end of the harvest, the farmer would separate a portion of the crop, reserve it (i.e. not use it or eat it), and then give it to the priest. He could give it to a local priest or to a priest in Yerushalayim. There was no set amount for terumah. It was a contribution given as your heart lifts you up or moves you (Shem. 25:1). Therefore, the right heart (attitude) is essential in giving terumah. We must give it in cheerfulness and with a loving-commitment to the Father. Terumah shows our heart’s desire to please the Father. It is giving Him a gift out of love and deep appreciation for all that He does.
Both bikurim and terumah cause us to remember YAHUAH first and foremost in material gain. We separate bikurim at the beginning of the harvest and terumah at the end of the harvest. When we work and reap the benefits of our labor, it is easy to think, “My power and the strength of my hand have made for me this wealth!” (Deb. 8:17) “But you shall remember YAHUAH your Elohim, for it is He Who gives you power to get wealth” (Deb. 8:18). Money can easily make us fall into pride and arrogance, and these attitudes push us farther and farther away from YAHUAH. The farther we are from Him, the less we experience Him in our lives.
In today’s world, the principles of hard work and self-reliance are extremely prevalent. We often feel pressured to work hard and provide for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with hard work, but our attitude must always be in the right place. We cannot think that all of our material gain is a result of our own hard work. We cannot think that we made ourselves this wealth and obtained all these possessions on our own. We cannot forget YAHUAH! It is He Who gives us power to get wealth! We would have nothing without Him—no matter how hard we work. YAHUAH brings forth the fruit of our labor. YAHUAH alone blesses us. This is why terumah and bikurim are so important. They cause us to remember this very fact: my hands have not made for me this wealth, but YAHUAH has given me this wealth. All comes from Him. The offerings of bikurim and terumah help us to have a constant awareness of YAHUAH’s goodness to us. We will continually remember His good Hand in our lives and defeat the evil inclinations of pride, arrogance, and self-reliance.
(30) ‘And all the tithe of the land – of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree – belongs to יהוה. It is set-apart to יהוה.
(31) ‘If a man indeed redeems any of his tithes, he adds one-fifth to it.
(32) ‘And the entire tithe of the herd and of the flock, all that passes under the rod, the tenth one is set-apart to יהוה.
(33) ‘He does not inquire whether it is good or spoilt, nor does he exchange it. And if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it are set-apart, it is not redeemed.’ ”
(20) And יהוה said to Aharon, “You are not to have an inheritance in their land, nor have any portion in their midst. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Yisra’el.
(21) “And see, I have given the children of Lewi all the tithes in Yisra’el as an inheritance in return for the service which they are serving, the service of the Tent of Meeting.
(22) “And let the children of Yisra’el no more come near the Tent of Meeting, lest they bear sin and die,
(23) because the Lewites shall do the service of the Tent of Meeting, so they themselves bear their crookedness. A law forever, throughout your generations: that among the children of Yisra’el they are to have no inheritance,
(24) but the tithes of the children of Yisra’el, which they present as a contribution to יהוה, I have given to the Lewites as an inheritance. That is why I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Yisra’el they have no inheritance.’ ”
(22) “You shall tithe without fail all the yield of your grain that the field brings forth year by year.
The Hebrew word translated as tithing is ma’aser (מַעֲשֵׂר). Ma’aser comes from the Hebrew word eser (עָשֶׂר), which means “ten.” Ma’aser refers to a tenth, and it is the Scriptural requirement to give away a tenth of one’s income. Tithing is a primary focus of this lesson because, as we will see, diligent tithing brings the greatest spiritual benefit.
YAHUAH commanded the Yisraelites to tithe their livestock, the produce of the field, and the produce of the tree. To tithe the livestock, every tenth one that passed under the rod was set-apart to YAHUAH (Way. 27:32). The owner would gather the herd or the flock and drive them through a narrow passageway counting each one. Every tenth animal would be marked as it passed. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad (spoilt), it belonged to YAHUAH (Way. 27:33). This tithe of the livestock is known as ma’aser behemah.
Similarly, the produce was also tithed. At the end of each harvest, the farmer set aside one-tenth (10%) of the produce of the field and of the fruit of the tree. This was the first tithe called ma’aser rishon. The first tithe was given to the Levites (Bem. 18:21). The Levites did the work of the Set-Apart Place daily—making offerings, assisting the priests, teaching Torah, etc. They had no inheritance of land like the other eleven tribes. They did not sow or harvest their own crops; their daily work was in the matters of YAHUAH at His Set-Apart Place. Therefore, YAHUAH gave the Levites the tithes from the Assembly of Yisrael. The tithes were the Levites’ livelihood. It allowed them to do the work of the Set-Apart Place without worry of where or how to get food for themselves and their family. (Levites in turn tithed from their increase to the priests –terumat ma’aser; Bem. 18:26-29). So, the first tithe of the produce, ma’aser rishon, was given to the Levites.
(17) “You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or of your new wine, or of your oil, or of the firstlings of your herd or your flock, or of any of your offerings which you vow, or of your voluntary offerings, or of the contribution of your hand.
(18) “But eat them before יהוה your Elohim, in the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses, you and your son and your daughter, and your male servant and your female servant, and the Lewite who is within your gates. And you shall rejoice before יהוה your Elohim in all that you put your hands to.
(19) “Guard yourself that you do not forsake the L?wite as long as you live in your land.
(22) “You shall tithe without fail all the yield of your grain that the field brings forth year by year.
(23) “And you shall eat before יהוה your Elohim, in the place where He chooses to make His Name dwell, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, and of the firstlings of your herds and your sheep, so that you learn to fear יהוה your Elohim always.
(24) “But when the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, or when the place where יהוה your Elohim chooses to put His Name is too far from you, when יהוה your Elohim is blessing you,
(25) then you shall give it in silver, and shall take the silver in your hand and go to the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses.
(26) “And you shall use the silver for whatever your being desires: for cattle or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your being desires. And you shall eat there before יהוה your Elohim, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
(27) “And do not forsake the Lewite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
There was a second tithe that was also separated from the harvest. After ma’aser rishon was separated, the Yisraelites would then separate another 10% from the remaining crop. This was the second tithe, called ma’aser sheni. Yisrael was based on a seven-year agricultural cycle, with every seventh year being the Sabbatical year (Shmitta) in which no crops were planted or harvested. In the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the cycle, the second tithe was taken to Yerushalayim. The Yisraelites carried it to Yerushalayim at the three pilgrimage Festivals [Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot] and ate it before YAHUAH with rejoicing. Ma’aser sheni was their sustenance and support while they were away from home. However, they didn’t just use it for themselves. They were required to invite the poor and the Levites to eat and rejoice together.
(28) “At the end of every third year you bring out all the tithe of your increase of that year and store it up within your gates.
(29) “And the Lewite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the sojourner and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied, so that יהוה your Elohim does bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
(12) “When you have completed tithing all the tithe of your increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Lewite, to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, and they have eaten within your gates and have been satisfied,
(13) then you shall say before יהוה your Elohim, ‘I have put away the set-apart portion from my house, and also have given it to the Lewite, and to the stranger, and to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Your command which You have commanded me. I have not transgressed Your commands, nor have I forgotten.
Every third year of the agricultural cycle (year 3 and year 6), the second tithe was given directly to the poor wherever he may be. This was called ma’aser ani, or the poor man’s tithe. So, depending on the year, the second tithe either went to Yerushalayim or to the poor.
We see then that the Yisraelites separated not just 10%--but 20% of their harvest—and this was after separating bikurim and/or terumah. The first ten percent was ma’aser rishon given to the Levites, and the second 10% was either taken to Yerushalayim (ma’aser sheni) or given to the poor (ma’aser ani).
WHY DO WE TITHE?
YAHUAH COMMANDED. We cannot attempt to explain it away. YAHUAH commanded, and therefore, we His servants must do. “All that יהוה has spoken we shall do, and obey.” (Shem. 24:7)
ACKNOWLEDGE YAHUAH. “The earth belongs to יהוה, And all that fills it – The world and those who dwell in it.” (Teh. 24:1) When we tithe, we acknowledge that YAHUAH is the Creator and all things belong to Him. Everything we have comes from Him. YAHUAH uses different ways to send His blessings into our lives, such as jobs/careers, but we cannot begin to focus on the means by which His blessings flow and forget the Source of all blessings. Giving tithes is recognition that the increase is from YAHUAH Himself and none other.
Also, as said earlier, YAHUAH gives us the power to get wealth (Deb. 8:11-20). Without Him, we couldn’t walk, see, hear, think, or even breathe. Without Him, we would have nothing, and we would be nothing. Therefore, because YAHUAH is our Help in all that we do, we must give Him His share. The tithe does not belong to us. It is YAHUAH’s portion.
SUPPORT THE WORK OF YAHUAH. The Levites were dedicated servants of YAHUAH. One of their primary duties was teaching the people the Laws of Elohim. The tithes supported the Levites so they could continue focusing on this important work. The Yisraelites understood the importance of the Levites’ role and understood that the Levites had no inheritance. Therefore, they willingly gave their tithes to the Levites. If they were blessed, then the Levites should be blessed too (Deb. 12:19; Gal. 6:6). It was like an exchange: the Yisraelites gave their material goods in exchange for the spiritual ‘goods’ from the Levites (1Cor. 9:11).
Today, the same must hold true. When we tithe and give to the dedicated servants of YAHUAH who are teaching the words of YAHUAH, then they are better able to serve YAHUAH. They are able to maintain focus on doing the will of YAHUAH and keep their mind set on spiritual matters from above rather than below (Qol. 3:2). They are free to keep meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the people. Jewish law even says that the foremost recipients of tithes should be “those who labor in Torah.” Oddly enough, this is one of the main reasons why many people do not pay their tithes. They say that they refuse to support another human being who can work for himself. However, this is exactly what the Torah commands. The Yisraelites completely understood that they were supporting the Levites and did so willingly. Today, we give tithes to the true, dedicated servants of YAHUAH who are chosen by Elohim so that they can continue doing the works of the Father. We especially should give the tithe to those who are our teachers. If they dedicate their time to teach us, counsel us, pray for us, and minister to our needs in every way, both spiritually and physically (just like the Levites), then they should receive our tithes. If we receive spiritual gain from them, then we should willingly give our material gain (1Cor. 9:11). The true servants of YAHUAH are then able to subsist (as we are) and do more works of YAHUAH.
Not only do the tithes allow the Levites to subsist (live), but, more importantly, they also aid the work of YAHUAH. Tithes provide funds for the work of YAHUAH to continue and flourish. Teachers of the set-apart truth are often hampered in their work due to lack of funds. In this day and age, teaching costs a lot—paper, ink, copies, computer/office equipment, CD/DVDs, internet access, phone service, mailing supplies, postage—all come with a price tag. Copies of Scriptures cost money to purchase and distribute. Maintaining the Set-Apart Place for worship also costs. Imagine the good works that could be done with adequate funds. Imagine the amount of people who would be able to hear the Good News of YahuShuah if the servants of YAHUAH had enough funds to do the work of His Reign. Sufficient funds can even lead to such things as billboards, television programs, commercials, and newspaper/magazine ads—all to spread the True Name of YAHUAH and YahuShuah to the masses and to the far corners of the earth. Furthermore, as the set-apart servants spread the Good News, they will be able to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, and do many other good works in the Name of YahuShuah. When we, the set-apart ones, all do our part in giving tithes to the servants of YAHUAH, together we establish the Reign of Elohim on the earth, spreading the Good News and making taught-ones of all nations— “so that all the peoples of the earth might know that יהוה is Elohim, there is no one else”, “And there is no deliverance in anyone else, for there is no other Name under the heaven given among men by which we need to be saved.” YahuShuah saves! (1Ki 8:60; Act 4:12)
SUPPORT THE POOR. In the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the agricultural cycle, the second tithe, ma’aser sheni, was taken to Yerushalayim. This tithe allowed the Yisraelites to support themselves when they journeyed to Yerushalayim for the three pilgrimage festivals. They would have food to eat and would invite others—the Levites, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and the poor—to share in their festivities so they too could praise YAHUAH (Deb. 26:13). In the 3rd and 6th years, the second tithe went directly to the poor (ma’aser ani), and they could eat it wherever they wished.
Today, we still must give to the poor. The first 10% (ma’aser rishon) goes to the Levites, and since we are no longer on an agricultural cycle, we should allow the Set-Apart Spirit to guide us in how to give ma’aser sheni and ma’aser ani. Surely, we must consider the poor. There will always be poor in the world (Mat. 26:11), and YAHUAH requires those who have more to give to those who have less. This is one way that YAHUAH shows His loving-commitment to the poor—He blesses them through the hands of the rich (the ‘rich’ simply being those who have more). “He who shows favour to the poor lends to יהוה, And He repays his deed” (Mish. 19:17). When we are obedient and show favor to the poor, we are lending to YAHUAH Himself. He is forever trustworthy, and He will repay. All that is given to the poor is repaid in full plus interest in this life.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH. When fully understood and implemented, tithing is a powerful spiritual tool. YAHUAH commands us to love our neighbor as our self (Way. 19:18). YahuShuah gives us a renewed command to love one another as He has loved us (Yoh. 15:12). Yahudim must love, and the love of YahuShuah must be made complete in us. All traits, characteristics, attitudes, or behaviors that are not of YahuShuah must leave, and we must be made anew, re-birthed a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Tithing helps us on this path. When we tithe diligently (without fail), we become more and more giving. That is why it is better to tithe each increase rather than tithing a lump sum. Each physical act of giving tithe generates a spiritual action that works on our beings. Each time we acknowledge YAHUAH, we increase in thankfulness and gratitude and praise for our Master, drawing closer to Him. Each time we extend our hand to another, we become more giving. We take a step toward becoming kinder, more compassionate, more generous, and more loving. Each time we tithe, we chip away at the stumbling blocks of selfishness and self-centeredness that stand in our way on the path of true righteousness. When we are low on cash, it’s easy to say, “I need this money” and keep the tithe. However, when we obey YAHUAH’s command to give the tithe, we are required to look beyond ourselves and meet someone else’s needs. We put obedience to YAHUAH above all else. Slowly, through diligent tithing, our being will grow more and more like our Master YahuShuah. The more we tithe, the more we will find ourselves looking for occasions to give.
Tithing works under the same principle as “Na’aseh V’nishma”—“We Will Do and Obey” (Shem/Ex. 24:7). When Mosheh presented the children of Yisrael with the Torah, the people responded, “Na’aseh V’nishma”—“We Will Do and Obey.” They agreed to ‘do’ even before they had full understanding of all the Laws. As they learned the Torah over time, they gained understanding, and then with greater understanding, they would obey. They acted first, and the correct intention and motivation came later. The same idea applies to ma’aser. We tithe first, and the desire to give comes in time after diligently tithing. The act brings the right heart and the right spirit. We will develop a desire to give and begin giving without expectation of return.
Tithing also teaches us to trust in YAHUAH and to truly see Him as Elohim. Anything we receive as a blessing from YAHUAH, we must tithe. Sometimes, however, it seems our expenses are higher than what we receive, and it becomes harder to let go of the tithe. When we are obedient and give the tithe, we put our trust in YAHUAH that He will provide for the rest of our needs. Using the tithe (i.e. robbing Elohim; Mal. 3:8) is saying we don’t trust YAHUAH to provide for our need. We must always give the tithe and trust YAHUAH to provide. The more we tithe, the more our belief in YAHUAH will increase.
(25) “Because of this I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you shall eat or drink, or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than the food and the body more than the clothing?
(26) “Look at the birds of the heaven, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into storehouses, yet your heavenly Father does feed them. Are you not worth more than they?
(27) “And which of you by worrying is able to add one cubit to his life’s span?
(28) “So why do you worry about clothing? Note well the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin,
(29) and I say to you that even Shelomoh in all his esteem was not dressed like one of these.
(30) “But if Elohim so clothes the grass of the field, which exists today, and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more you, O you of little belief?
(31) “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
(32) “For all these the gentiles seek for. And your heavenly Father knows that you need all these.
(33) “But seek first the reign of Elohim, and His righteousness, and all these matters shall be added to you.
(34) “Do not, then, worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow shall have its own worries. Each day has enough evil of itself.
“Seek first the reign of Elohim, and His righteousness, and all these matters shall be added to you” (Mat. 6:33). ‘His Righteousness’ is obeying the will of Elohim to help others. Obey YAHUAH, and He will take care of ‘all matters.’
(29) And יהושע answered him, “The first of all the commands is, ‘Hear, O Yisra’el, יהוה our Elohim, יהוה is one.
(30) ‘And you shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first command.
Loving YAHUAH with all our heart, being, and might (strength) is a progression of greater and greater love for our Father. Loving YAHUAH with all our strength is the greatest love we can have for Him. One meaning of loving Him with all our strength is to love Him with all our resources and possessions. This is the greatest love for Elohim: when we can give up everything we own for His Name. YAHUAH helps us grow to this deep love by giving us commands such as bikurim, terumah, and ma’aser. These commands teach us to give and to not hold our possessions so dear. These are ‘stepping stones’ to get us to loving YAHUAH with all our strength.
BECOME WEALTHY. There’s a famous Hebrew saying regarding tithes: “Asser, bishvil shetisasher”—“Tithe (give away a tenth), so that you may become rich.” This saying is derived from the beginning of Debarim/Deut. 14:22, “Asser t’asser” which is usually translated: “You shall tithe without fail.” However, the original Hebrew Torah did not have special markings to aid in pronunciation. The word ‘asser’ (tithe) and ‘oser’ (riches) come from the same root word and look similar in Hebrew. So Deb. 14:22 can also be read “asser t’asher” giving the verse a second meaning: “Tithe, you shall become rich.” The Torah could be saying both: “Tithe without fail” and “Tithe (so that) you become rich.” This verse cancels out any beliefs that tithing causes one to become poor.
Tithing not only guarantees wealth, it is a qualification for wealth. As said earlier, tithing teaches us to become giving. Only when we have developed a giving heart are we then ready to receive wealth. When we have proven to be trustworthy stewards to diligently disperse YAHUAH’s portion, then we are ready to receive wealth. This requires trust and belief. First, we give ma’aser, then we rely on YAHUAH’s trustworthiness to fulfill “t’asher”—the riches.
Not only will we obtain wealth monetarily, we will also receive other types of wealth such as health, peace, spiritual growth, blessings of favor, right relationships, etc. Furthermore, it is stated: “Who is rich? One who is pleased with his riches.” In other words, one who is content and satisfied with whatever he has is considered rich. When we get to the point where money and material possessions have no effect on us, we are ready to receive the fullness of all that YAHUAH has stored up for us. Then, we will easily disperse it to whomever YAHUAH wills.
BIKURIM, TERUMAH, & MA’ASER TODAY
WHO IS REQUIRED TO OBEY THESE LAWS?
Tithing is a Torah commandment. Everyone who has entered into covenant with the Most High יהוה to do and obey His commands must pay tithes (ma’aser) and give offerings to יהוה (bikurim & terumah). Anyone who confesses to be a Yahudi/Yahudite is obligated to pay tithes and offerings. Also, anyone who desires spiritual growth to draw closer to יהוה should obey this command.
HOW DO WE SEPARATE BIKURIM, TERUMAH, AND MA’ASER?
First, separate bikurim and terumah, which we will call ‘offerings.’ This is how we acknowledge יהוה first and foremost in all things that we receive. This shows that we are thankful for the current blessing and all blessings He has ever given us. We acknowledge that everything is from Him and Him alone. Our action of giving shows our sincerity, our commitment, and our obedience.
Since it is difficult to determine the beginning and end of harvest season, it is also difficult to distinguish between bikurim and terumah. We should simply keep in mind that we are giving to יהוה a portion of our best to acknowledge Him in thankfulness. We separate a portion (of any size) and give it to יהוה in thanksgiving (Bem. 18:11-13). Remember that bikurim is from the best and that terumah is given from the heart out of deep love and dedication to the Father. These are our ‘offerings’ to יהוה.
Next, separate ma’aser (tithe). Ma’aser is an exact amount: simply divide the full amount of the blessing by ten and give that amount. We are commanded to tithe our livelihood. From whatever יהוה gives us to live on, we separate 10% and give it to Him. The Torah also says that we tithe our increase (Deb. 14:28). Any amount of money that causes an increase in our personal wealth, regardless of size, should be tithed. This includes earnings, monetary gifts, prizes/awards, refunds, inheritances, money that is found, or any money that just came into our possession. If it is a blessing from יהוה, then we must give Him His portion. (Non-monetary gifts can also be tithed by giving away a portion of the gift or by giving away an amount equal to 10% of its value.)
The tithe must be separated immediately. As soon as we’re in possession of any increase (earnings or otherwise), we must separate the tithe. In the Torah, the Yisraelites were not allowed to partake of their crops until the tithe had been separated (Way. 22:15; Deb. 12:17). So, too, we should not use our portion (of money) until after we separate ma’aser. Calculate the tithe immediately and then set it aside. Place it in a separate location or in a separate account so that it is not touched until you give it to the priest. Do not simply write down the amount you owe and write a check at a later date to cover all your tithes. Tithe every increase. For example, if we’re paid every two weeks, then we should tithe every two weeks. We should not wait until the end of the month or the end of the year and ‘make up’ for all previous tithes. Separate your tithe immediately and give it to the priest. This also helps because if we take the tithe right off the top, then we have no chance to consider it ‘ours’ and make excuses to spend it.
Tithing must also be done accurately. The tithe cannot be estimated. If we guess, we may underestimate our tithing obligation and give too little. In that case, we did not properly fulfill יהוה’s commandment and do not please our Father. We must calculate the tithe exactly and give the entire amount. It’s easy when our tithe amounts to a rather small amount. If we receive a large amount of money, we still must tithe the full 10%. If we give less than what we owe, it does not count as tithe. It is an offering, and we are still held accountable for giving tithe. We must be certain to tithe every increase that יהוה gives us and give Him His full portion—regardless of size. If we give more than our tithing obligation, it is counted to us as an offering well-pleasing to our Father.
If we use the tithe for ourselves (keep it or spend it), then we have stolen the tithe (Mal. 3:8). It must be paid back PLUS one-fifth (Way. 27:30). It is not ours to use, and therefore, must be given back to its rightful owner (יהוה) plus interest.
Regarding the Second Tithe and the Poor Tithe: since we are no longer on an agricultural cycle, we should allow the Set-Apart Spirit to guide us in how to disperse it. We separate an additional 10% and then give it to the poor, reserve it for the festivals, give it to the priests, or use it for יהוה however He leads. It must be used in a way that shows our love, commitment, and obedience to יהוה. There is no doubt that paying the second tithe will be difficult for many. Yet, we should consider the great benefits of tithing. Giving only ma’aser rishon (first tithe) will result in blessings of all forms. Doubling the tithe (by giving the second tithe) will only increase the blessings and spiritual benefits we receive. There are many businessmen today who diligently tithe 20% to keep their financial blessings flowing. There are some who even tithe ‘forward.’ They give an amount equal to the tithe on what they hope to earn, and according to their belief, they are soon earning that amount!
WHO RECEIVES THE TITHES & OFFERINGS?
Bikurim, terumah, and ma’aser are given to יהוה. יהוה then gives it to His servants. We give it to יהוה through the hands of His servants, the priests. The Torah commands us to give to the priests and the Levites. Many people today refuse to pay tithes unless they know for certain that the recipient is a descendant of the tribe of Levi. This is almost impossible to determine because almost all genealogies were lost in the diaspora/dispersion.
Again, we must look to the Spirit of the Law. יהוה chose Aharon of the tribe of Levi to be high priest (kohen gadol). Aharon’s sons would be the other priests (kohanim). Their duty was to attend directly to the matters of יהוה. They made offerings at the altar, arranged the showbread, tended the menorah, and burned incense. Once a year, the kohen gadol would enter the Most Set-Apart Place to make atonement for all Yisrael.
The Levites (Levi’im) were chosen to assist the kohanim because they refused to take part in the golden-calf incident and executed right-ruling for Yisrael (Way. 32:29). Their duties in the wilderness were to set up, take down, and transport the Mishkan (Dwelling Place). When the Mikdash (permanent Set-Apart Place) was built in Yerushalayim by Shelomo, their duty changed to maintaining the House, daily upkeep and operation, and being gate-keepers and guards. Other duties included making music (praise offerings), teaching Torah, judging matters, caring for the needs of the people, and assisting the kohanim in any ways needed (Deb. 17:9, 33:10).
YahuShuah continued the priesthood according to the order of Malkitsedeq. Just as the Dwelling Place was a pattern of the True Tent in Heaven (Ibr. 8:1-5), so also the Levitical priesthood is a pattern for the heavenly priesthood under YahuShuah. Looking at the Levitical priesthood according to the Spirit of the Law, we see who are the true priests today: those who have dedicated their lives to the works of יהוה; those called, chosen, and prepared by Elohim; those doing the works of the High Priest YahuShuah; doing works of righteousness—giving to the poor, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, etc.; teaching the Word of יהוה; teaching the difference between the set-apart and profane, clean and unclean; proclaiming the Reign of Elohim. These are the true priests today. These are the priests under the priesthood of YahuShuah according to the order of Malkitsedeq. They are to receive the tithes and offerings. Ibrim chapter 7 explains how the Levites actually paid tithes to Malkitsedeq because they were in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes. Also, in Ma’asei/Acts 4:36-37, Barnabah, a Levite, gave offerings to the emissaries. The emissaries had followed YahuShuah and were made priests unto יהוה according to the Malkitsedeq order.
As set-apart Yahudim, we are commanded:
Deb. 12:5,6--“but seek the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His Name there, for His Dwelling Place, and there you shall enter. (6) “And there you shall take your burnt offerings, and your offerings, and your tithes, and the contributions of your hand, and your vowed offerings, and your voluntary offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock.”
Deb. 12:11-- “And it shall be, that unto the place which יהוה your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell there, there you are to bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, and your offerings, and your tithes, and the contributions of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to יהוה.”
Deb. 26:1,2-- “And it shall be, when you come into the land which יהוה your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, (2) that you shall take some of the first of all the fruits of the soil which you bring from your land that יהוה your Elohim is giving you, and shall put it in a basket and go to the place where יהוה your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell there.”
Seek His House and search for His true servants (priests) not by genealogy, but by their works.
(20) “And they shall bring all your brothers as an offering to יהוה out of all the gentiles, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My set-apart mountain Yerushalayim,” declares יהוה, “as the children of Yisra’el bring an offering in a clean vessel into the House of יהוה.
(21) “And from them too I shall take for priests – for Lewites,” declares יהוה.
We must seek the place of His Name. Search for those teaching the Set-Apart Word of יהוה ; those who proclaim the Name of יהוה and YahuShuah; those tending to the needs of the people—in assistance, in prayer, in counseling, etc; those healing the sick; those delivering the oppressed; those setting the captives free; those doing the works of YahuShuah; those maintaining the House of יהוה, the place for His Name; those assisting the High Priest YahuShuah in His works—feeding the lambs, shepherding the sheep, and feeding the sheep; those chosen, prepared, and appointed by Elohim. These true servants are the ones to whom יהוה gives His portion.
COMMON QUESTIONS/CONCERNS ON TITHES
WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY SOMEONE FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH?
First off, we are NOT paying anyone when we pay tithes. We are simply giving יהוה His portion.יהוה owns it all. Everything we think we own actually belongs to Him. He gives us use of it, and the tithe is the only part that He asks from us. We pay יהוה what is rightfully His. יהוה then chooses to allocate His share to His servants. When we separate our tithes and offering, we give it to יהוה. That must be understood in the foremost parts of our hearts and minds. יהוה requires us to tithe commanding it as a Law forever, for the Torah is eternal.
I CAN’T AFFORD IT.
This excuse is contradicted in the Torah. Debarim 14:22 can be read, “Tithe so that you will become rich.” Anyone who believes tithing will cause him to become poor is clearly wrong. Tithing brings wealth—in all forms. Not tithing will cause us to remain in our current state…at best. The act of disobedience to יהוה’s command can cause an actual loss (in any form) as a punishment.
(8) “Would a man rob Elohim? Yet you are robbing Me! But you said, ‘In what have we robbed You?’ In the tithe and the offering!
(9) “You have cursed Me with a curse, for you are robbing Me, this nation, all of it!
We have to understand that all belongs to יהוה. He entrusts us with a certain amount, like a banker or a treasurer. It is our duty to disperse it as He wills. The tithe is not ours but His. If we keep it and use it, we are stealing! (Mal.3:8) We’re guilty of embezzlement—fraudulently using funds entrusted to us for our own use. Restitution must be made (paying it back plus one-fifth; Way. 27:31), or punishment will follow.
יהוה is an all-knowing, intelligent Elohim, and He is a good Elohim. He knows exactly how much we need. He always gives us what we need plus extra to give away. Yes…He gives us extra! Even when we think we can’t afford it, יהוה actually gives us more than we need. When we think we don’t have enough, trust יהוה, and He will always work it out. ‘Take care of others and יהוה will take care of you.’
(10) “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, and let there be food in My house. And please prove Me in this,” said יהוה of hosts, “whether I do not open for you the windows of the heavens, and shall pour out for you boundless blessing!
(11) “And I shall rebuke the devourer for you, so that it does not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor does the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” said יהוה of hosts.
(12) “And all nations shall call you blessed, for you shall be a land of delight,” said יהוה of hosts.
I PAY TITHES, BUT NOW I’M MAKING LESS MONEY!
Tithing brings spiritual growth. When we tithe, we learn to trust in יהוה. If our income decreases will we still trust Him enough to provide? Will we keep tithing? A decrease in income is merely a test. In our spiritual journey, we must go through testing. Tests refine us (removing all unclean/undesirable, un-set-apart ways) and strengthen us, bringing us closer to יהוה. One of the biggest tests is coming to understand that 10% of our livelihood is not ours but יהוה’s and then giving it away. When we make less money, it gets harder to see this and stand by it. But we must pass the test. It improves us spiritually. A wise person understands that it is indeed a test and withstands it. He sees the lesson יהוה wants him to learn, and because he understands, יהוה brings him through the test successfully. He is blessed even more than before.
I TITHE ALL THE TIME. HOW COME I’M NOT RICH?
There are a few ways to address this. First, remember that wealth comes in many different forms: money, peace, health, spiritual growth, strength (physical, emotional, spiritual), deliverance, etc. Just because we don’t see our bank account stacking up right away doesn’t mean we’re not prospering. Second, if all we’re doing is looking for a monetary return for ourselves, we still haven’t learned the lesson yet. We pay tithe until we learn to give and yearn to give expecting nothing in return. Our only motivation is pleasing יהוה through obedience to His command and love for one another. Once we reach the point where our money and possessions are not so precious to us and we can freely let it go and give to others, then we’re ready to receive the monetary riches. Third, if there are still other areas of our life that we must correct, our prosperity and wealth will be withheld. One teacher described it as a team of strong horses trying to pull a wagon that is chained down. It doesn’t matter how strong the horses are, the wagon will not move. Tithing is powerful, but there may be other things in our life chaining us down. We must be completely ready to receive the blessings יהוה brings our way. Until we get all areas of our life in order, we continue to give tithes (for spiritual growth), and יהוה will continue to store up our blessings. At the appointed time, when we are ready, all will flow to us.
(15) “And if it seems evil in your eyes to serve יהוה, choose for yourselves this day whom you are going to serve, whether the mighty ones which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the mighty ones of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But I and my house, we serve יהוה.”
Choose this day whom you will serve:
YAHUAH or MAMMON