Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." ''Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
The biblical tithing system was rather complex but very efficient. It provided a fund for the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as for the Levites and the poor. Local Rabbis had a job supplemented by the voluntary offerings of their congregants. Here is how it worked: The tithe of the first, second, fourth, and fifth year of the seven-year sabbatical cycle was set aside from the farmers in the land to be paid to the levites who themselves tithed from it to the priests (Numbers 18:30). The tithe of the third and sixth year, some years the owners ate themselves at Jerusalem (supporting the city through their business), and in others gave it to the poor (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). They are commonly called first, second, and third tithe. In this way, all Israel had a share in the support of the Temple, the priests, and the poor. This did not include voluntary offerings.
If people failed in their tithing obligations, the Levites would not be able to do their jobs of teaching and caring for the Temple; this would result in a spiritual and moral downfall. The poor also would be affected, and God always hears the cry of the poor against their oppressors. Following the Words of the Master, the first believers in Jerusalem very much responded to their responsibilities towards each other and pooled resources so everyone would be cared for. Other communities of believers outside the Land did the same thing in order to survive (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32).
Since we have no more Temple or offerings at the altar, each congregation today seems to have their own adaptation of the tithing commandments. In the case when a congregation owns a building, the great majority of the tithe either goes to the mortgage, the upkeep, upgrades, utilities, equipment, taxes, salaries, and insurances. Through the prophet Malachi, God accuses the people of Israel of 'robbing God' but they replied, "How have we robbed you?" "In your tithes and contributions," God replies (Malachi 3:8).
These are good questions to ask ourselves too. Do we rob God? Do we rob God by investing it in fancy buildings rather that people made in the image of God? We may not have money but what about time? Time is a very precious commodity. Singles and young people should invest time in the children of those with children struggling to keep a schedule together, help with their house work, repairs, or home-schooling. Take the kids for a day and give the poor parents a break.
Do we rob God of our money, time, or even of a talent we are supposed to exercise for the benefit of others? In my knowledge and experience, there are three cries which get priority in Heaven's halls: children's, the poor's, and those of a desperate mother.