Understanding the Jacob Tithe (Genesis 28:22)

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As Christians, we are not under a “tithing” process anymore.

Under the Old Law, the Jews were mandated to give a tenth of everything that they owned. This involved a few different types of tithes, but the general idea comes from Leviticus 27:30 that says a tenth of these things “is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.”

Over time, the Jews began to skimp on the tithe — not the quantity, but rather the quality. They still gave a tenth, in other words, but it wasn’t anywhere up to the standard befitting a gift to God (Malachi 1:6-14).

The whole idea of giving something to God is about showing your gratitude and being thankful for what God has given you. A substandard offering  — not necessarily in actual value but value to you — reflects what you really think about Him.

(Note: Just because something looks paltry doesn’t mean it is. The widow’s two mites in Mark 12:41-44 represented everything she had. For her, that was an astounding sacrifice. As 2 Corinthians 8:12 points out, a gift is “acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”)

Like his grandfather Abraham, Jacob demonstrates the true nature of tithing in Genesis 28:22 when he claims he will give a tenth of everything to God, if God will but keep him safe. 

It may sound like he’s bargaining with God, but in reality, Jacob is showing his appreciation for God’s protection. It’s an understanding and a testament of faith in God — one that he might not have had much of until his dream.

The same principle is in place for us. When Paul tells the church at Corinth to “put aside as you prosper,” the necessary implication is that we recognize that we have prospered.

And who has prospered us? According to James 1:17, God.

So no, we don’t tithe anymore. It’s not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the New Testament as a command, but the principle is still very much alive. When we give to God — whether that’s of our time, our money, or our heart — it’s done in appreciation for Him and what He’s done for us.