God commanded the saving of second tithe for us to better observe and enjoy His Feasts! And with that command comes the responsibility to carry it out in a wise and godly manner, so as to reap our Creator’s blessings all the more.
Unlike first tithe, which is intended for God’s Work, second tithe is intended for us to spend in connection with God’s Festivals (Deuteronomy 14:22–23). All of God’s tithes are holy (Leviticus 27:30), including second tithe. So, how do we make sure we use it as God intends?
First, let’s note that second tithe is not limited to the Feast of Tabernacles. Other commanded Festivals sometimes involve unusual travel and expenses, and it’s appropriate to use second tithe for these. However, we should preserve the majority of our second tithe for our observance of the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day, which tend to involve higher expenses. This article will focus on Feast of Tabernacles observance, but the principles will apply to all of God’s Festivals.
Embrace the Purpose of Second Tithe
The most important key to properly using second tithe is understanding its purpose, which God explains in Deuteronomy 14:22–27—using second tithe should help us “learn to fear the Lord your God always” (v. 23), as a tool for helping us grow in reverence of God at His Festivals. When we embrace this, we can better judge which of our expenditures or spending opportunities are appropriate for second tithe use.
First and foremost, second tithe should provide food, shelter, and other expenses at the Feast site. We’re commanded to observe the Feast “in the place where He chooses to make His name abide” (v. 23), and second tithe should primarily be used to make this possible.
And there, we are to rejoice (v. 26)! The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ and His saints, under whom mankind will experience abundance, joy, and security! Obediently saving our second tithe throughout the year (v. 22) allows us to experience an abundance during the Feast that we normally do not. We may eat at restaurants, enjoy outings, and experience sources of entertainment and education that we normally cannot afford.
In Nehemiah 8:10, Ezra and Nehemiah explain that God’s Festivals are a time to “eat the fat” and “drink the sweet”—enjoying foods reflective of special occasions. Making time at the Feast a real joy for our family is a fine use of second tithe!
Not About the Self
But, as we enjoy, we must be on guard against the temptations to focus inordinately on ourselves. Some read that second tithe should be spent “for whatever your heart desires” (Deuteronomy 14:26) and proceed to focus completely on themselves, purchasing items they don’t even use at the Feast. Using second tithe is not about increasing our possessions. Note that verse 26 mentions food and drink to be enjoyed at the Feast site itself: “You shall eat there before the Lord your God.”
Buying personal items is not forbidden, and gifts for others can be a wonderful way to spend part of our second tithe. But, again, the purpose of second tithe must be in mind. Is this purchase teaching me to revere God? Is it helping me to properly rejoice during the Festival, or is it simply giving me the “joy” of owning more stuff?
So, too, we need to take care while eating and drinking. Drunkenness is clearly condemned by God (e.g., Galatians 5:19–21 lists it as a “work of the flesh”), as is gluttony (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:20). God’s commands do not cease when the Feast begins! Many have ruined their Feast by overindulging in ways their bodies simply could not handle—just as many have ruined it for their families through the abuse of alcohol, misusing God’s blessings for vice.
Even the blessings of God must be managed and enjoyed in a way that pleases Him, so that we do all things in His name (Colossians 3:17). That does not change during the Feast! The Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating when the way of “give” rather than “get” will envelop the entire world (Isaiah 11:9), is no time to picture the way of “get” in our own lives.
Such principles mean that, although making a purchase to enhance our happy memories of the Feast or providing a gift for a child may be an appropriate use of second tithe, we should not primarily use second tithe to satisfy our material cravings, nor for encouraging such an attitude in our children. If our children see the Feast as a “Church-approved Christmas” when they are showered with toys, they—and we—are missing the point.
Giving Others a Good Feast
Looking again at Nehemiah 8:10, we are encouraged not just to enjoy our personal Feast abundance, but also to “send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared.” Taking care of others is a wonderful use of our second tithe. This can certainly include sending tokens of thoughtfulness to those who might be unable to attend the Feast due to various conditions. Also, the generosity of others has enabled many to attend the Feast who otherwise could not.
We can also reflect a generous attitude at the Feast itself. Many Church members enjoy secretly paying for the dinner of members they happen to see at a restaurant, or paying for others to attend Feast activities. We can also invite those who have less second tithe to join us for a meal or activity. Such uses of second tithe help us experience our Father’s generous nature and help others to experience the blessings that the world will enjoy in the future.
Deuteronomy 14:27 reminds us to consider the “Levite,” as well. It can be acceptable to use a bit of second tithe to honor our ministry in some way—for whom the Feast is often “work” time.
Expenses and Attractions While Traveling
Traveling to and from one’s Feast site is a natural source of expenses with which second tithe can help. Deuteronomy 14:24–25 demonstrates that travel involved in His Festivals was on God’s mind, and His second tithe provides relief from the concern of those expenses. Suitable travel expenses certainly involve fuel, lodging, and food on the trip.
Some have wondered about pre-Feast car repairs. It is certainly appropriate to ensure that our vehicles are in road-worthy condition for travel to the Feast—however, we should be careful not to use that as an excuse to put off needed repairs throughout the year in order to save personal funds, and we should not spend so much second tithe in preparation that too little is available at the Festival site itself.
For instance, some have covered part of the cost of new tires with second tithe right before the Feast, recognizing the miles they will be driving to and from the Feast site, but paying the greater portion out of personal funds, as most miles on those tires will be driven after the Feast. Such expenditures are personal decisions, but our decisions must ensure that God’s purpose in establishing Festival tithe is served.
The question of side trips on our travels also comes up. Is it appropriate to spend some second tithe on attractions during our travel to and from the Feast? It can be! But, again, we must mind the purpose of second tithe—helping us learn to “fear the Lord” as we keep His Festivals. That purpose should help us not abuse God’s generosity.
Perhaps there is a special attraction in your travels to and from the Feast—such as the California Redwoods or a natural museum—that will stir appreciation for God and make a special “Feast memory” for your family. Considered carefully, such things could be appropriate second tithe expenditures. Still, such opportunities should not take away from or overshadow the time spent at the Feast site itself.
Excess Second Tithe
Some have thought that excess second tithe is no longer set aside for a specific purpose and may be used back home. That is not the case. To do so is to profane what God has set aside as holy!
The Church has traditionally said that a portion of one’s excess second tithe may be used to supplement—not replace—one’s Last Great Day offering. However, one should take care to cover expenses regarding the trip home, some of which can be unexpected, such as a flat tire. After returning home, excess second tithe should then be sent in as a “Festival Tithe Donation” so that it will be put in a fund to help take care of next year’s Festival expenses. It should be noted that the Church rarely, if ever, receives enough Festival Tithe donations to cover all Feast-related costs.
Generally, excess second tithe should not be saved for the following Feast. However, there may be exceptions to this. When someone is going to retire and does not expect to have sufficient funds for the next year, saving some excess second tithe is permissible. Close family members separated by great distances are permitted to occasionally save for the following Feast so they can be with family when that would otherwise be impossible. In situations where income is erratic, it may be best to spread out a bountiful year’s second tithe over several years. But none of this should be our usual practice—we are to save up from year to year (Deuteronomy 14:22).
While it might seem selfless to minimize second tithe expenses during the Feast in order to send more to the Church at the end of it, doing so can frustrate the very purpose of second tithe! Seek to satisfy that purpose during the Feast, seeing to it that you and your family rejoice abundantly and enjoy picturing what God’s Feast represents—thereby learning to fear the Eternal, who gives such gifts to those who love Him. This purpose should be satisfied first—then any additional contribution in your final offering will truly be “excess.”
A Powerful Tool
It is not without cause that the Feast of Tabernacles represents a highlight of the year for God’s Church! It is an opportunity to draw closer to our Father, our Savior, our family, and each other as we observe the days the Almighty has set apart to picture the glorious Millennial rule of the Kingdom of God and the inspiring conclusion to His 7,000-year plan.
Proper use of God’s second tithe, commanded for our benefit, is a powerful tool to help the Feast be all He desires it to be. May you use it to rejoice and “learn to fear the Lord your God always”!