When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” Genesis 28:16-22
After Jacob and his mother Rebekah deceive Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau, Jacob leaves Beersheba and flees to Haran to escape his brother’s threats. Rebekah’s family is from Haran. Isaac instructs Jacob to go and live there, and take a wife from among his cousins. Jacob stops for the night on his way to Haran. In his dream the Lord confirms to Jacob the covenant He made with Abraham and later confirmed to Isaac. The scripture picks up when Jacob awakes the next morning. He calls the place Bethel which means house of God, then Jacob makes his vow to God. In the last sentence he vows to give God a tenth (a tithe) of all He gives Jacob.
Where did Jacob learn to give a tithe to his God? The word tithe does not show up in the Bible until Leviticus, so after Moses leads Israel out of Egypt more than 500 years later. Even if the word tithe does show up for over half a millennium, the concept existed before Jacob made his vow. Abraham gave a tenth of their plunder to Melchizedek when he returned from defeating the kings that took Lot captive. What is a tithe? It is a specific offering or sacrifice. The first sacrifices in the Bible were from Cain and Abel. Where did they learn it? From Adam and Eve, from God himself? Wherever the beginning of tithing came from, the custom of giving an offering to God became a vow of Jacob. Tithing is a practice all believers should exercise. It demonstrates your trust in God to provide for your needs. Is it a command? Some say that even if it were, we live by grace, not by the law. Some Christians hold this view to justify not giving at all. Let me present grace from a different perspective. It is not to say you don’t have to give, but rather you are not limited to giving a tenth. You may be led to give more than ten percent. Don’t limit yourself to 10 percent. Whatever you decide to give, the Bible tells us to give it with a cheerful heart. After all, God is interested in the condition of your heart, not your money.