30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.
It usually happens at the beginning of a church year. Sometime in January, just after people have started to breathe again after Christmas. It’s pretty predictable, though still important. What is it? It’s the annual stewardship sermon, the message on giving and tithing and all the rest.
In general, the stewardship sermon comes out of somewhere like Malachi. After all, that passage talks about Israel’s unwillingness to bring their tithes to the Lord. The Malachi passage even speaks of not giving faithfully in terms of stealing from or robbing God.
Well, Malachi is not the only place we find such a concept. Right here, in the end of Leviticus, something very interesting jumps off the page. In chapter 27, God reveals his standards for tithes to the Israelites. One interesting element of the tithe was that, if for some reason a person did not want to give what God had specifically required, he could redeem his tithe. So, for example, if a person did not want to give a tenth of his grain, he could pay a proper amount to God in order to keep the grain.
Now, here is what got my attention. If an Israelite wanted to redeem his tithe, he had to pay the monetary value of the tithe, but he also had to add one fifth to the value. If you look back also at Leviticus 6, what you will see is that this 120% figure is also used in cases—get this—of robbery. If I stole something from you, I was required to repay 120% of the value of what I stole.
Is it not interesting, then, that God required a 120% payment for anything that the Israelite did not wish to give in his tithe? What it tells us is that the person who refuses to give to God what God requires steals from God. We definitely don’t want to be guilty of that.
Now, as a matter of disclaimer, my goal here is not to get legalistic about the tithe. My intent is, however, to say that a Christian who refuses to give to God freely, sacrificially, and proportionally has a major problem with how he or she relates to God. Such truth is clear throughout the Scripture.