Not by Bread Alone: A 31-Day series

Day ten: Food in God’s house

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’” Malachi 3:10

Jason preached about tithing to our congregation not long ago.

The next day our air conditioner stopped working. The company who installed it made a service call, and as it turns out, what was wrong with our air conditioner was not covered by our 10-year warranty.

Part of me wants to just skip over this entire post and not talk about tithing. But in a discussion about what the entire Bible has to say about food, I find it impossible to leave this out.

Back in Bible times, tithe was not a check that you wrote to the church. Tithe was food. Humble Israelites would bring their first fruits (and vegetables and grains) and the very best animals of their livestock to the temple. That food, after it had been sacrificed to God, was what fed the priests, enabling them to devote all their time to the work of the Lord.

We grew a few things in containers on our deck this summer, and that small act of gardening helped me better understand so much of the Bible. Most of it was written to an audience that intrinsically understood agriculture and growing crops–something that is almost completely removed from our 21st century post-industrial world.

Our little plants were dependent upon us for our care, but also on things that were entirely out of our control, like rain and sunshine. We watered them when there were several dry days in a row but when the rain just would not let up in July, and storms blew the plants off their perches, there was very little we could do. It’s like what Paul said in a spiritual metaphor he shared with the Corinthian church: “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

So all the barley and wheat and grapes and olives that Israelites tended were God’s. He made them grow. And because he could, he asked them to give a tenth of all of it back to him.

It is no different now. We are not out in the fields every day, praying for the rain or sunshine we need as we till, plant, weed, and prune. So it might be a little easier for us to believe that the things we produce have come to be by our effort. We worked hard. We climbed the ladder. We earned the paycheck. But it was God who gave us the ability. Who gave us favor. Who provided us with a way to earn income.

Is ten percent really all that much for him to ask of us, when all of it belongs to Him anyway?

And in return, God promises to pour out more blessing upon his people than we can hold.

Many interpret this as a promise that when we tithe, our wallets will benefit from it. Perhaps. But more likely, I think God will bless us however he sees fit. Maybe he’ll provide us with something more important than money that we have been needing. Or maybe he’ll simply protect us from things that would cause us to struggle financially – car trouble, health problems, and the like.

But most of all, I believe that Malachi 3:10 is God’s promise to provide for our needs as we follow him obediently in the area of tithing.

If you’re not currently tithing, I understand that giving away ten percent of your income – a ten percent you may need to make ends meet – feels like a huge risk. But I promise you, obeying God is always worth the cost.

And I’m not speaking as someone for whom obedience in tithing is not costly. I work 8½ hours a week at the library. Jason is a pastor. We are not sitting on millions here, or even thousands. So when our air conditioner broke, it was a big deal. We had the money, but it wiped out almost all of our emergency savings.

It’s easy to claim that I trust in God to provide for me when I know I have an extra couple thousand dollars to cover anything that comes up.

But when that money is gone? Do I still trust him? Do I still believe that God will honor our family and keep food on our table when we are obedient in giving him our firstfruits?

I do.

So we will continue to tithe, no matter how small or large our paycheck is.

And I’m thinking and praying about what to do with the food we’re growing. This year, our small rain-battered plants only produced a few pounds of small tomatoes and 5 or 6 bell peppers–little more than a fun experiment. But if we got more serious about it, to the point that it significantly reduced the amount we would have to spend on groceries at the store, I wouldn’t want to neglect to give to God out of anything he’s given to us.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to tithe off our small harvest this year, but I was not exactly sure how to do so. If we were simply members of a church, rather than pastors, I probably would have made a point to give some of our tomatoes and at least one of our peppers to the pastor and his family. But since that’s not an option, I was a little lost. Should I give it to needy members of our congregation? Burn it in my driveway as a sacrificial offering to God? I don’t know. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Are we, as Christians, obligated to tithe from a garden in modern times? And if you garden, do you tithe off what your home produces? How?  

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This post is part of a 31-day series. A list of all the other posts in this series can be found here.

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