Monday, March 24, 2008

Eating your Tithe: Dt 12:17-18

"You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings." (Deuteronomy 12:17-18)
I find it very interesting that the tithe was not just to be given but it was to be eaten in the presence of the Lord. Jumping ahead, Moses elaborates on this command.
"You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. "You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household." (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
This command seems so out of character with how tithing and giving are typically taught today. When offerings are taken today, they are usually for the benefit and support of someone else's ministry, mission, or vision. The gifts given are used by others to accomplish God's will and to further His kingdom. However, in Israel, the tithe was to be enjoyed by the giver; enjoyed and eaten in the presence of the Lord. We often hear messages today about the need for sacrifice in given. When our church recently undertook a building campaign, they used the slogan, "Not equal giving but equal sacrifice," yet such sacrifice, i.e. giving "in faith" what we do no have, seems to be to be inconsistent with the teachings of tithing and giving in the Old Testament. It seems to me that perhaps God is wanting to change some of our thinking about tithing and giving. What if, in our giving, we focused on enjoying our tithes and offerings in the presence of God? How might our giving be different? What if we used our tithes and giving in the following ways?
  • Call a feast and ask everyone to use their tithes to buy what every they would like and bring it to Church so that everyone could eat together in the presence of the Lord.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to pay for Christian training and education for us or our children. Maybe a Christian school, Bible school, or some ministry school.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to pay for a short term missions trip for one of our children or even for ourselves.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to help someone in financial need. Perhaps even a parent or grand-parent.
  • Spend our tithes and offerings on a family vacation to reconnect with our family and, together, with God.
These are just a few suggestions, but you get the idea. Tithes and offerings are not meant to be a burden but a blessing. Perhaps we need to start thinking about them in this light.

David Robison

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  1. Anonymous10:36 PM

    How do you deal with Numbers 18:21?

  2. I am not an expert on the tithe, but what I understand is that there were different tithes that God required of the Israelites. One of these was for the Levites. I hope this helps. David

  3. Anonymous8:40 AM

    You are a priest, so that is how you deal with Numbers 18.21. The tithe is yours, again.