The first tithe was paid to the Levite. Israel paid this tithe to their ministry, who in turn interceded to God on their behalf. The priests told them how God wanted them to live, which produced a properly-lived, safer, happier, more meaningful life, which in turn brought many national and individual blessings, the greatest of which was a close relationship with God.
Today, the ministry is to perform the same function, except that there is more on the line because we have God's Spirit. As the ministry teaches us how to live and how to conduct our lives, we will be physically blessed for proving and following these instructions, but there is more at stake than this. We are to be changed inside, spiritually. We must have a right heart, be converted, and have the mind of God. God desires us to have perfect, godly character! The ministry today is much more important in this respect. The role of the ministry is to help perfect those whom God places in their care (Ephesians 4:11-12)
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Tithes were given to Levi to do the work of God: to cover living expenses, equipment, upkeep of the tabernacle and its accouterments, etc. Today, our first tithe goes to church headquarters to do the same thing—to do God's work.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Tithing: God's Financial System
Does God command three separate tithes, or one tithe merely split into three different uses? God says in Numbers 18:21, "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacles of meeting." The Hebrew term for "all," kol, means "the entire amount," "the totality," "the whole" of the tithe, not a percentage or part.
Moses uses the same word in Deuteronomy 14:22-23, regarding the festival tithe:
You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
Just a few verses later, he shows another use for ALL the tithe!
At the end of every third year you shall bring out [kol; see KJV—"all"] the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (verses 28-29)
Here, a third tithe is given for a separate use. It was not to be given to maintain the Tabernacle (church) or spent on oneself at a festival. It was to be stored, implying a use over a period of time for the poor, widows, orphans, etc. Since this third tithe occurred only on the third and sixth years of the seven-year cycle, it had to be stored for the special purpose intended.
For each of the three tithes, God specifies all, or the entire tenth, should be used for the stated purposes. If on the third and sixth years we kept all the tithe for the poor, we would have no money for festival use! Yet the feasts were kept every year as a memorial (Exodus 13:10). This clarifies that all of the three tithes are referred to rather than a splitting of one tithe.
Common Tithing Questions
Israelites gave tithes to the Levites to perform the work of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Because they were involved in God's work and had no significant land of their own, the Levites had to be supported by the rest of the congregation of Israel.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Numbers 18:21: