So, I was thinking about tithing a bit this week. Rather a theoretical commandment for me, at the moment, till I actually start having "increase" again that isn't due to a massive influx of debt. My wife and I have talked about the "pay the Lord first" concept before, but it came up again this week. I really don't understand the justification of those teaching this position. It surprises me to see it taught as if it were the "scriptural" way of doing things... often citing references to the Old Testament, and commandments to bring the "first fruits" as offerings.
The reason this bothers me is that all these passages referring to first fruits are most certainly not referring to tithing. The ancient Israelites were commanded to offer many different sacrifices, for different reasons. But in an agrarian society, paying tithing using the first fruits is a real impossibility. Tithe literally means tenth. It's a percentage. It cannot be calculated until the total is known. If I have 100 cows that are pregnant, I'm not commanded to bring the first ten calves and pay them as tithing. Why? What if 10 cows abort? Stillborn calves. Calves dying shortly after birth. Twins born. Etc. My debt to the Lord would change significantly.
So that isn't the case today. We can, with relative certainty, predict the size of our "harvest" and number our "flocks" without waiting to see for sure. But that doesn't change the fact that the commandment to tithe had nothing to do with first fruits. This is a modern conflation of tithes with other offerings. Now, I know the point people are trying to teach, that we need to place priority on serving the Lord, and on obeying him... but I don't think we can say that just because we do something first we're putting it above him priority wise. I generally get my homework done before recreating with my wife, but that doesn't mean I think that homework is more important than she is.
Is the Lord angry with those that pay their tithing, before their other bills? Perhaps not. But I also can't imagine that he would be the least bit displeased with those who pay their mortgage, car payment, insurance, etc. first, then hope they have enough left for tithing. This isn't a net vs gross issue, which I also find interesting. It's a chronological first vs last.
Honestly, I imagine it's the reason we even do tithing settlement. So we can pay up once we've been able to calculate our interest from the prior year. This has got me thinking too, and I've decided that there's really no good reason we have to use the calendar year for our obeying the "anually" part of the commandment. Why not have our own personal tithing settlement every July, or something. It seems December is the worst possible time, for a lot of families, by the time they pay for Christmas related expenses, to come up with extra cash they realize they ought to pay as tithing. Why not do it right after we file taxes, or better yet, receive our tax returns?
So, any thoughts on why we need to pay tithing first, or why December is good time for tithing settlement? Or anything else tithing related, I suppose?