Deuteronomy 14:23 (CSB)
23 You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and fresh oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of the Lord your God at the place where he chooses to have his name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the Lord your God.
This passage is obviously descriptive of a tithe for the Israelite people. There are a few themes here though, not just a “gimme your money” command, which unfortunately can be the view of the tithe for so many.
- The tithe was to be eaten “in the presence of the Lord.” Man was to dedicate what God has provided him to God, and then partake of it in fellowship with God. The tithe as described here is not a “give to God then go do my own thing” arrangement, it is participatory. In fact, even if the sanctuary was too far to bring an offering, the command was to sell the offering and bring the money to spend upon a feast and “rejoice with your family” in the presence of God!
- It is the job of the church, in this case the nation of Israel, and specifically each family of that church/nation, to support the church establishment, in this case the Levite clan. The bi-vocational trend of pastors now is understandable. There is a push for pastors, the church, to appear less like they are profiting from tithes. There is a trend towards lower tithes in general, whether due to economic pressures or a cultural shift. But one has to wonder if we as the church are sacrificing what God intended for us to gain through dedicated clergy. Perhaps if we looked at tithing less like losing money and more like investing in God’s design, things would be different.
- People, especially Christians, at least in the US, have a fear of the word “social”. It’s understandable, and in general is a valid concern. But when we read Deut. 14:28-29 what else do we call that other than a social tithing program? It’s the people who have all giving to God so that He may provide for those without. How quickly could we do away with government programs if only the church would step up and give like it was designed to do?
- The biggest point to take away from this passage is the end of Deut. 14:23: “so that you will always learn to fear the Lord your God.” The tithe should remind us that everything is God’s, and we are giving back to Him His own stuff! It should draw us closer to Him as we celebrate His grace through provision. It should increase our reverence through submission. And it should increase our charity, compassion, and grace through giving. It should make us more like Jesus when we give.
Lord, thank You for the tithe! The words sound odd, seem backwards, in the frame of reference of the world. But in Your economy, in Your design, it makes perfect sense, and is designed to grow us. I am sorry for my greed, for stealing from You, and from robbing myself of opportunities to join You and grow. I pray for charity on the part of the church, including myself… a cheerful and willing charity. Amen.