In Genesis 14:18-20, we read about the remarkable appearance of the mysterious figure, Melchizedek. Here, we have the first suggestion of tithing – “Then Abram gave Him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20). This is not a legalistic practice. It is set in the context of grace and worship. Abram’s tithing follows on from this: “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine” (Genesis 14:18). In view of what we read, in Hebrews 7, about Melchizedek and our Lord Jesus Christ, it is appropriate that we should think about tithing in the context of our response to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose body was broken for us and blood was shed for us. Tithing is set within the context of worship. It is a part of our worship. In this act of worship, we are saying, “blessed be God Most High” (Genesis 14:20). Within this context of worship, there is blessing – “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19). Those who have been blessed by the Lord consider it their privilege to bring their tithes to the Lord. The blessing of God upon Abram is to increase greatly. The promise reaches its fulfilment in Jesus Christ – “Count the stars—if indeed you can count them … So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). Through Jesus Christ, there is salvation for ”a great multitude, which no man could number” (Revelation 7:9).
Abram “believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) – This is faith, receiving salvation as God’s gift. Unfortunately, Abram’s faith was not constant. He listened to Sarai’s suggestion: ”Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2). This led to the birth of Ishmael. It also led to thirteen years of silence from God’s side: “Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him” (Genesis 16:16-17:1).
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we have teaching which links up well with the teaching regarding tithing in Genesis 14: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:19-20,24). Tithing is not merely a mechanical thing. It’s part of a lifestyle, governed by heavenly priorities. If we are to make sense of life in this world, we must keep heaven in view. No matter what our circumstances may be, we must believe that the wise man builds on Christ – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” – and the way of the fool will come to nothing – ”All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame” (Psalm 6:9-10).