Scripture: “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” Deuteronomy 14:28-29 ESV
Observation: Having challenged the people to circumcise their hearts in love and obedience to the Lord, Moses continues discussing how to love and serve the Lord in covenantal terms of blessings and curses incurred through obeying and disobeying Yahweh’s commandments (chapter 11). He then foretells a day when God’s people are to worship him in a designated site where he will place his name—pointing three centuries later to Jersusalem (chapter 12:1-28). Continuing instruction regarding worship, Moses emphasizes that they must irradicate all people (foreign or Israelite) who attempt to lead God’s people astray in pagan worship (12:29-13:18). He then reviews dietary laws, distinguishing between kosher and that which is an abomination (14:1-21).
Thus, having addressed kosher diets, Moses transitions to tithing practices and principles that naturally involve food. This third swipe at tithing adds a couple of nuances to the previous discussions in Leviticus 27:30-33 and Numbers 18:21-28. Here, in addition to the tithes to the Levities, who then tithe to the priests, he introduces a communal tithe the people would bring to the designated site of the tabernacle for a feast (vv.22-23). And for those who travel a great distance, a provision is made to sell their first fruits, bring the money to the tabernacle, and buy replacement tithes (vv.24-26). Additionally, at the end of every three years, they shall store the tithe of their produce in their hometown to care for the non-landed: Levites, aliens, fatherless, and widows.
Takeaway: This ancient Jewish culture mandates a lot of eating and celebrating through tithes and offerings. And the purpose of tithing in fellowship is to instruct and encourage one another to fear Yahweh always (v.23). This is not fear that invokes a sense of dread but awe and reverence for the one who brings the rain and sunshine and causes the grains to grow, the fruit to bear, and the animals to fatten. Thus, receiving his bountiful gifts from the earth, the Lord commands his people to celebrate his goodness and pay forward his blessings to those who possess no land, who are dependent on the welfare of others.
So what would this look like in our modern world? There are three distinct tithes to account for here:
- to those serving the Lord in ministry (pastors, para-church leaders, missionaries, and their associated organizations),
- to support communal fellowship (in-reach to the body of Christ to build and strengthen community), and
- to sustain Christ-centered social welfare (caring for those who can’t fully care for themselves).
And when we tithe with intent, when we cheerfully offer our time and resources to bless others in Christ, we glorify our gracious Lord and bless those who benefit from our gifts—and we are equally blessed. Indeed, is there anything more rewarding than to see the transformation of lives? Certainly, giving with gratitude enlarges our hearts to see the beauty of the greatest tithe of all time: our Father’s gift of his Son.
Prayer: Father God, we are sincerely thankful for the incomparable gift of your Son. With hearts of gratitude, we humbly ask that you help us through the lead of your Holy Spirit to develop hearts of charity toward growing your kingdom and glorifying your name in the life of the church and the brokenhearted. Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling