As Christians, some of us have a hard time with tithing. Indeed, when I first became a Christian, I questioned whether to tithe or not. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t discuss whether we should tithe. Instead, I want to point out something about tithing in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were expected to tithe three times! That’s right, three times! Actually, there were four tithes since the Levites were expected to also give a tenth to the Levitical priests, but most of the time, only three are mentioned.

We read about the first tithe to the Levites in Numbers 18.

“I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting…Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.'”

Numbers 18:21,24 (NIV)

This tithe was given to the Levites since they received no physical inheritance (land).

The second tithe was the Tithe of Feasts described in Deuteronomy 12:5-7 and Deuteronomy 14:22-23.

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (NIV)

This tithe celebrated the Lord’s abundant provision, and unlike the first tithe, it was consumed by the giver instead of being entirely donated to the Levites.

The third tithe was a tithe for the poor.

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (NIV)

The Levites always got something from the tithes since they had no land. However, the intention of the third tithe was to help the poor, which leads me to this verse in Deuteronomy 15.

However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.

Deuteronomy 15:4 (NIV)

This verse is found in the teaching about canceling debts. However, it might stand out because of Deuteronomy 15:11, which is also found in the same instruction.

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Deuteronomy 15:11 (NIV)

On the surface, verses 4 and 11 might contradict each other, but they do not. Instead, the keyword in verse four is “need.” Coupled with verse 5, we can see why there’s no need to have poor people in the land.

However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today (emphasis added).

Deuteronomy 15:4-5 (NIV)

Along with canceling debts, the tithe for the poor is discussed in Deuteronomy 14. Verse 11 reveals the sorrowful truth that the Lord knew the Israelites wouldn’t obey him, so he says there will always be poor people. Therefore, Deuteronomy 15:4-5 tell us there wouldn’t have to be poor people in the land if the Israelites obeyed the Lord.

If you tithe as a Christian, you’re not following any of the tithes I’ve mentioned today (which were under the law). Instead, if you give ten percent, you’re giving the Melchizedek tithe found before the giving of the law in Genesis 14:17-24.