It is great to see how most people really enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.
Food and family are a winning combination.
I could not help but think of how the lost Biblical teaching on tithing is so similar to Thanksgiving. “Lost Biblical teaching!!!” on tithing you might say! I know you hear more sermons and teaching on tithing than you should, but let’s go back to Deuteronomy and see what the law taught.
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 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. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-29 NIV)
Any of you eaten your tithes recently? Has anyone been taught to eat your tithes? Oh no!
What does this text say! “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”. Now that would be a celebration. That would be even greater than Thanksgiving. Remember how the Jewish religious celebrations were called feasts?
God was more interested in fellowship with His people and His people having fellowship with Him than in their money. Think about it. This time of fellowship and eating in His presence was “so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always”.
Just to compare with Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is a one day holiday that has grown to several days to allow to get to and from where we want to be to give thanks and enjoy the food!
The law said they were to eat a tenth of their produce in the presence of the Lord. Now a tenth of a year’s produce would represent 1.2 months of food. So the question is whether they wanted to gorge themselves and eat 1.2 months of food in less than 1.2 months or stretch it out and take longer than 1.2 months to eat this food.
Estimate the time as you wish, but the point was “Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.” Did you get that? “eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice”!
I cannot help but think that God is sadden by what we have done with tithes in the modern commercial church. We have traded wonderful times of eating and rejoicing in His presence for what? I will let you answer that.
There are two results of this change we should lament.
First of all God. If you reread this paragraph you will see that the center of tithing was revering God and rejoicing with God. He wanted and wants that!
In second place the people have lost out. Christians loose sight of the fact that God wants fellowship with them more than their money! He does not till this day need our money! Do we know the God that is most understood when we feast in His presence? Do we know the God that is revered when we can even drink fermented drinks in his presence? We do not present this God to the world either. I don’t necessarily want to upset anyone, but non-believers think it is great to have a beer with the guys. What if they understood they could have a beer with the Lord God almighty?! Reread the text if you think I am exaggerating here. What if non-believers found out that joining our fellowship was the equivalent of many days of Thanksgiving, revering and rejoicing meals in the presence of God?
So we should lament and I do not doubt that God laments.
When Jesus had a large crowd of people following Him, the disciples wanted Him to send them away so they could buy food but, ‘Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”‘ (Matthew 14:16)
The disciples learned this lesson well. We find them in the earlier chapters of Acts waiting themselves on the tables of the widows up until the point that they could no longer do this and still have time to properly minister.
The early church was described this way:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
The breaking bread, eating together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God sounds a lot like what God had in mind in eating of the tithes in the law. The people looked on this favorably.
Let me conclude before a necessary footnote.
Rejoice in the Lord this Thanksgiving, make plans to have lots of thanksgiving days this coming year. Take some of your tithes or if you want to follow the law all of your tithes next year and throw some feasts in the presence of the Lord!
You have heard from Christian pastors and teachers, still teaching the law, that you are supposed to bring all your tithes into the storehouse. What does the text in Deuteronomy say? It actually teaches that the tithes were to go into the storehouse only every third year. Reread the passage I am not making this up. Two out of three years the tithes were to be eaten, only the
third year were they to go into the storehouse.
A tithe every three years would be about 3.33% of your income, again if you still want to follow the law. It is also important to note that this third year tithe was not only to support the Levites (seen any of those lately?) but also “the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied”. How many churches asking for 10% of your income have a good chunk of their budget designated to the aliens, the fatherless and the widows so they can eat and be satisfied? If you insist on following the law then follow it!
Since we are not under the law we should not try and follow this to the jot and the tittle. There are definitely some Godly principles to follow here though. I would suggest first of all to feast and rejoice in the presence of God with gratitude. Second to be involved with regular giving to the aliens, fatherless, widows and other needy people around us.
Stephen O Searfoss, Sr.