“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.
But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” (Numbers 18:20-24)
The Levites were to receive the tithe or one tenth of what the other tribes produced for their service in the tabernacle, for taking the responsibility and preventing the others from facing God’s judgment. They were not to inherit a land of their own because they received the tithe.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest.
Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.” (Numbers 18:25-32)
The Levites were then to take a tenth of what they had received, a tithe, and give it to Aaron for the specific purpose of obtaining materials needed for maintenance of the tabernacle. It was to be treated just as if they had earned it at any other occupation. Ten percent of what each of the other twelve tribes received would give them about twenty percent more than the average of the other tribes income, but they were to provide the animals for the morning and evening sacrifices and the national feasts out of their own herds, after tithing what they had received and providing the daily sacrifices, they would have about the same amount to live on as any other tribe. They would not get richer than the other tribes.
Matthew, Mark and John record Jesus driving out the money changers and sellers of livestock out of the temple. The Levites were no longer willing to settle for the tithes and offerings the people gave and had begun to sell sacrificial items in the temple as a way of raising additional money. It was this practice that Jesus condemned in John 2:13-16. “And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.” I wonder what he thinks about the selling of books and tapes or CD’s in modern churches?
Unfortunately many modern churches never become fully autonomous because they do not follow the example given by God for supporting the church. Any Church with twelve wage earners should be able to support the pastor at the same level as the average of his members, with enough to pay the church expenses. Unfortunately, many are never taught to take the responsibility for tithing. Many pastors are not willing to live at the same level as their people, and many insist on having fancier and larger buildings than their people can support. The problem will undoubtedly continue until we return to following the example God has set.