Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Another Message on Tithing?

Not exactly; rather, this is another correct message about tithing. There is a difference.

The Parsha from last week included a rather interesting discussion about tithes (Deuteronomy 26:1-15). I did not have the time to discuss it during our Torah Portion, but as we are experiencing a global economic downturn, it seemed prudent and good to the Ruach HaKodesh (i.e., Holy Spirit) to say something about this passage.

Tithing is a doctrine that fascinates me. It is a doctrine (i.e., teaching) that nearly everyone knows, but few have actually read and even fewer understand. I don’t mean to be arrogant or condescending about this; rather, I have heard hundreds of sermons/messages about this topic and rarely hear a view that accounts for all Scripture in context. After all, if we do not live under the Mosaic Law, why retain tithing anyway?

Deuteronomy 26:2 gives the details: the Jewish people are to take the “fruit of the ground” from the “land that the Lord you God is giving you,” (i.e., the Promised Land) and offer it “in the place He will choose” (i.e., Jerusalem). The worshiper (giving=worship, see Deuteronomy 26:11) is then to recount the works of the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:5-11).

But who receives the tithe? Know there are at least 2 or 3 different tithes … hence there is a lot of confusion over the practice. The recipients of this tithe are clearly labeled in Deuteronomy 26:12: “the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow,” so that they can “eat within your towns and be filled.” Some exposition is in order here. Proponents of the tithe are quick to point out that the Levite was the minister. Well, kind of but this is a gross simplification error. Regardless, the ministry of the Levite is not the focus of this passage.

What is the common thread among the recipients of this tithe? They likely did not own land. Remember, Levites did not receive a land inheritance. The context of the passage here is the fact that before the Jewish people had no homeland and now they have one. The message is very clear: the Jewish people were to be mindful of what God had done for them, and act in accordance with the mercy and grace God showed them.

The lesson is that there is a place in ministry for supporting those in need. Messianic Congregations should be in the habit of supporting the needy, both those in the Congregation and those outside in the community. And so should the people who make up the Congregation; be mindful of how you can fulfill your ministry with the finances and other things God has given you.

Ministry is supported by free-will offerings, not tithes. Ben David is no exception; the ministry goes on because (as God allows) His children support it. Make no mistake, Ben David needs finances to keep ministry running. Those who are a part of this ministry should seek the Lord as to how they can support it. But to calculate a strict 10% as a mandatory offering for the Congregation is a mistake. The practice of tithing described above makes it clear that the common view of “the tithe” is not only a misconception, but sometimes excludes the very people God had designed to receive it.

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