A month or so back, I wrote a blog about tithes from Deuteronomy 14 and what that chapter said about tithing. Once again, now here in Chapter 26, the idea of tithing and firstfruits are brought up – with slightly separated statuses.
The first half of this chapter talks about bringing in the firstfruits after they have entered the Promised Land.
Take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land that the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. ~ Deuteronomy 26:2
This is a single paragraph – and speaks of some of the firstfruits. Not all, not a specific number, just a basketful.
Then separate to this, comes the tithe.
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all you rproduce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisified. ~ Deuteronomy 26:12
Just like there was in chapter 14, there’s a specific purpose for the tithe here. First of all, though, it’s not about an investment opportunity – there’s nothing in this discussion on tithing that suggests the motivation is to get more. The tithe has a purpose, and that is to feed the priests – who have no inheritance of their own – and foreigners in the land, orphans and widows. It’s to take care of the people who aren’t able to take care of or provide for themselves.
Once again, I want to make it clear that I’m not making any claim not to tithe – but it is an expression of our heart, not a command to do so.
There is currently an article further in the works on the topic of tithing, so keep an eye out for more information on this soon. The link will be published also on the Midnight Quills Facebook Page and Twitter feed when posted, so subscribing to either of these will keep you informed with updates.
Okay, so the first part of this chapter’s once more going through food rules. Don’t eat this, do eat that. I struggle with those parts. However, I did notice tonight that there’s a big list of birds – but when I was reading through it, it kind of clicked to me, these are all – I think – birds who hunt in some way. Eagles, Kites, Falcons, Hawks and so on are some of the most majestic birds, but they’re also birds of prey; and then you have vultures and ravens – both scavengers.
That was just something that stood out to me. Given the restraint a few verses later, not to eat anything that is found already dead, I think I see a pattern evolving.
But that’s just an observation.
The second part of this chapter talks about tithing.
I find it quite interesting, actually, reading this chapter. In the first section we read about the eating rules, and not to eat camel, or rabbit, or pig among other things. Then it goes on to tithing.
Now the reason I find this interesting is because of observations I’ve borne witness to in the modern church. There are a lot of rules and regulations laid down in these first five books of the bible, rules like no eating pigs, not to cut your hair in certain ways, not to wear clothing made of a mixed weave, stuff like that. In today’s modern world, it tends to be suggested that these rules were put in place for the Israelites specifically, and don’t really apply to us today.
However, particularly in modern churches, we certainly can’t say that about the tithe. I’ve sat in several congregations throughout my life, listening to someone giving an offering talk that makes you feel like you’re a sinner if you don’t put money into the bucket/bag as it comes around. God commanded us to tithe; so if you don’t tithe, then you’re cheating God.
This is why I find this chapter interesting, because in today’s world, well, we can discard half of it. We can eat what we want today. The second half, though? Certainly not. You must give your money to God by putting it in the offering.
Now, don’t misinterpret me – I am most certainly not saying that we should not tithe, and give back to God what he has given us. This isn’t because he needs it, or even because he wants it – it’s about the state of our hearts, though. It’s about giving back what we can, not for God’s sake, but for ours. A generous heart is a loving heart.
As I read this passage, though, something stood out to me.
Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. ~ Deuteronomy 14:23
The first thing that stands out here: Eat the tithe. Moses is actually telling the Israelites here to eat their tithes themselves. He adds, further down:
And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. ~ Deuteronomy 14:27
So what he’s telling the Israelites, is to bring their tithes back to the holy place of worship – I’m assuming he’s talking about the cities marked earlier, to be inhabited by the Levites. He doesn’t say to them, though, just to drop it there and go again. He wants them to stop, eat, and share with the Levites as well. This is about communion with God, both by actually coming to the place God’s chosen as a dwelling, but also by sharing with the ones chosen to serve God full time.
Secondly, I notice that it doesn’t speak about bringing a tithe in just so that they can be blessed more and given more. I know that there are verses in other areas of the bible that say in giving out of what you have, God will bless you in return, but this one doesn’t. This verse says that they should bring the tithe to God’s dwelling place, so that they will learn to revere him.
Apart from guilt trips of God commanding us to bring a tithe; the other great offering talk subject I’ve heard in my life is the investment opportunity. Give, give, give your money to God, because in turn he will give you more in return. It’s like some sort of pyramid scheme – the more you give, the more you’ll get back.
Yes, sometimes that will happen, but God’s blessing is more than just financial.
I do not say anything here to discourage people from tithing. This is a challenge in my life that I need to be more faithful with, I will admit that. I encourage anyone who reads this to consider in prayer and communion with God, to tithe – as I encourage myself at the same time. It needs to be, though, out of the right heart. Tithing is not something that should be done under pressure, guilt, or selfishness – it is a step of partnering with God; of coming in to God’s dwelling place and sharing with him.
So, I’ve just been letting a thought run around in my head.
Dangerous, I know. You never know where thinking might get you!
What I’ve been pondering, though, has been more of what’s been on my mind and heart for quite some time. Once again, bringing a relationship with God back to what Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission. To go and make disciples of all nations.
I’d like to indulge in an exceptionally hypothetical situation for a moment.
Imagine a church pastor shows up at the church one Sunday, and the building’s empty. Fair enough, he thinks, he must just be early or the ushers and creative team and others are just running a bit late. So he waits.
It hits regular service time and there’s still no one around. He’s tried a few phone calls on his mobile but no one’s been answering. Finally, though, he discovers what’s happened. During the week the entire congregation has gotten ahold of the great commission, and they’ve done just what Jesus said to do.
I wonder how many church pastors would get excited about this prospect. Suddenly their entire flock is gone, out doing exactly what Jesus said to do, and there’s no one left to minister to.
They’re all following Jesus, rather than following the church.
I’m not making claims on anyone here, I’m just pondering the thought.
Two main sections to this chapter.
First of all is the main thing that stood out to me in light of the previous two chapters, it’s the element of the leadership role that most challengers to the position don’t actually consider at the time that they’re challenging. They consider the leadership, the power, the benefits, but there’s something that usually isn’t considered.
Aaron and the Levites have it pretty heavy when it comes down to it.
“You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.” ~ Numbers 18:5
So repercussions of abuse or mistreatment, or just not caring for the sanctuary and the altar are pretty heavy situations. Any consequences should be poured out over all of the nation of Israel, but instead, God says that Aaron and the Levites will shoulder that responsibility.
And this is the thing about leadership, it involves responsibility, responsibility for all of those that a person holds leadership over.
Secondly, comes the gifts of the Levites. It’s interesting here, too – the Levites don’t really come out with as great a deal as it would necessarily seem. They’re going to get around about the same amount of food and goods for themselves as the rest. God says that they can have the tithe. With the tithe being ten percent, and the figures of the tribe of Levi being around about the 10 percent mark of the rest of the population of Israel, as was noted back in chapters 2 and 3.
So they weren’t about to go getting ridiculously rich. On top of this, they also gave up any inheritance to the promised land when God finally brought them into it. They weren’t about to get houses, tracts of land, farms, vineyards, only the product of it as it was brought to God as an offering.
Serving in the physical dwelling place on Earth was meant to be a full-time thing, and they were given recompense for their work.