The Second Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:

22 You must be certain to tithe all the produce of your seed that comes from the field year after year.

23 In the presence of the LORD your God you must eat from the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the place he chooses to locate his name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.

24 When he blesses you, if the place where he chooses to locate his name is distant,

25 you may convert the tithe into money, secure the money, and travel to the place the LORD your God chooses for himself.

26 Then you may spend the money however you wish for cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or whatever you desire. You and your household may eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and enjoy it.

27 As for the Levites in your villages, you must not ignore them, for they have no allotment or inheritance along with you.

(NET Bible®)

Earlier, I made a case that the ancient tithe that went to the Levites belongs not to any modern priesthood, nor should it go to such things as church buildings and other such purely religious expenses. The “heave offering” tithe that went to the Levites today belongs to the poor and the needy.

However, the Law lists three different tithes. The second tithe was allocated for rejoicing before the Lord at the “chosen place.” All men were to appear at this place three times a year: at feast of unleavened bread (Passover), the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and the feast of tabernacles [Deuteronomy 16]. The appointed place was originally the Tent of Meeting; then it was replaced by the Temple in Jerusalem.

Today, the Temple is destroyed, and the Ark of the Covenant is missing. I believe that God allowed this to happen partially so that Christianity could spread beyond a reasonable travel distance from Jerusalem. In the future the mandate for such pilgrimages may go back into effect; there are prophecies to indicate this [Zechariah 14:16]. When Jesus returns, travel to the new Temple may be easier than it was two thousand years ago. In fact, it already is, but shuttling a billion Christians to Jerusalem three times a year is still problematic.

So I think it is safe to say that three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem are unnecessary for today’s Christians. But perhaps we should still spend a second tithe rejoicing before the Lord. A tiny fraction of Christian churches celebrate the ancient mandate by holding feast gatherings around the world (though not necessarily for all three feast times). Members use their second tithe for travel and celebration. The tradition of most Christian churches is to build a local house of worship, often with associated meeting rooms and classrooms. This too is spending money for rejoicing before the Lord. For either tradition, the second tithe is applicable, not the first.

Methinks the first tithe – helping the poor – should get priority. But that’s just my opinion. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to make that decision.

I will take a quick detour to make a political suggestion here: only first tithe donations as described above should be tax deductible. Donations to build church buildings or pay administrators for such should not be tax deductible in my opinion, any more than dues to a country club or gym should be tax deductible. When Christians vote themselves tax deductions for social expenses and personal spirituality, non-Christians see our selfish works and disrespect our Father in Heaven.