Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Virtual Gleaning

Unemployment is at record highs. People are losing their homes. Consumer confidence is dropping by the minute. Many are in despair and feel powerless and depressed. What can be done?

The answer is simple: we can tithe! But this is not the “tithe” you think it is.

Tithing is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in all of the Body of Messiah. Whenever people ask me about tithing, I frequently ask “to which tithe do you refer?” For those who debate the relevance of the Mosaic Law (i.e., Torah/Teaching/Instruction), tithing presents a very interesting litmus test for me. I find it curious that one side claims “we must follow the Law” yet does not tithe, and another side claims “we are dead to the Law” yet demands we tithe. God’s people, it would seem, are not without a sense of irony (as I paraphrase from the great philosopher, Morpheus).

So how can tithing buffer our economic downturn? You should first realize there are multiple tithes described in the Books of Moses. For example, there was the Levitical tithe whereby landowners in Israel supported the Levites so they could be Tabernacle/Temple ministers. But there were several others: the “festival” tithe (Deuteronomy 12:8-14), the “gleaning” tithe (Leviticus 23:22) and the “priestly” tithe (yes, Levites tithed too …).

I'll spare you the suspense: I'm referring to the “gleaning” tithe. The “gleaning tithe” is described primarily in Leviticus 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:21 and is exemplified beautifully in the book of Ruth. In a nutshell, landowners were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so that the poor in society could also share in the harvest. Thus Israelites with “enough” means were expected (no, actually commanded) to support the poor in their communities.

How does this happen today? Do taxes count (no)? Few of us in a suburban area like Orange County own enough land to allow the poor of our community to glean from our fields. My family has a small garden (few square feet). Am I disobeying God by not letting less fortunate neighbors come in to pick our herbs?

The Spirit of the commandment is very simple: Don’t consume what God has given you all for yourself. If we just keep this in mind, we can allow others to glean our virtual fields. Maybe you invite others to share a meal with you. Perhaps you can give people supermarket gift cards. Or if you actually have a garden you can share some of your harvest. There are many ways to honor this Scriptural principle; but remember the act of the poor coming to glean from your fields likely meant some kind of interaction between the landowner and the gleaner so letting the government take their cut is not really a gleaning tithe.

This simple example is, in my mind, a great way to honor Yeshua. We uphold the Law/Teaching/Instruction of God, and we provide a visible demonstration of love for others. Now that is a tithe I think we should promote!

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