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Giving - Old Testament

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It has often been said that Jesus Christ spoke more about money than about His second coming.  It is certainly true that the Bible has much to say concerning our possessions and goods.[1] It also speaks clearly concerning our financial responsibilities within the local assembly. But to get perspective we should first turn to the Old Testament with the realization that, though God’s economy has changed, His character and principles have not.   

An Overarching Principle

In the Old Testament God was dealing [primarily] with the nation of Israel. From the beginning He reminded them of this awesome fact:

ALL they possessed - both wealth and property - actually belonged to Him.[2]

In fact, He is the One Who even enabled them to make money.[3] This principle is also reiterated in the New Testament[4] It is not that I own everything that I possess - but rather that God does - and therefore I am a steward of all that He has given me.[5] Some day, at the Judgment-Seat of Christ, I will give an accounting of my stewardship and will be paid [rewarded] or suffer loss appropriately.[6]

Tithes

In the Old Testament, Israel was commanded by God to give certain tithes[7] to meet the needs of God's people. Actually, there were 3 tithes (amounting to roughly 23% of their annual income) that they were required to give.

·         The Levitical Tithe

The Israelites were to give 10% of their produce and goods to meet the needs of the tribe of Levi who served in the temple of God.  This tribe had no land inheritance and therefore needed to be provided for.[8]

·         The Feast Tithe

The Jews were to set aside another 10% of their goods and produce to provide for the 3 major feasts or festivals (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) that were held in Jerusalem each year. All of the people were to journey to Jerusalem each year to praise the LORD and remember His graciousness to them.[9]

·         The Poor Tithe

Every 3 years the Jews were to lay aside even another 10% of their possessions to provide for the stranger, fatherless, and widow in the land.[10]

Offerings

In addition to this required giving [tithing] there were other sacrificial offerings[11] that were given freely (that is, there was no percentage on this). These offerings are highlighted, for example, in Leviticus 1-8 and in various other places. The people were to give the best[12] of their animals and produce to Yahweh and the ministry of His representatives - the priests.[13] Besides, there were also freewill offerings (where no amount was specified) to meet a specific need.[14] These offerings were given in as great as abundance as the donor wished - knowing that God Himself would make up the deficit[15]

The Ultimate Motivation

But beyond the meeting of these requirements was the proper motivation. The various reasons or motivations for tithing are given in Matthew 23:23 by the Lord Himself. But the ultimate motivation is stated clearly in Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.[16] In addition, they were to “love your neighbor as yourself”.[17] Thus, the motivation for giving in the Old Testament was [or should have been] LOVE for God and for others.[18]


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[1] For example, Matt. 6:19-34, 2 Cor 8-9, 1 Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19 etc.

[2] For example, Lev. 25:23, Haggai 2:8, Ps. 50:10-12,  Ps. 24:1, 1 Chron. 29:10-20 etc.

[3] Deut. 8:18, 1 Chron. 29:12.

[4] Cf. 1 Cor. 4:7, Rom. 11:33-36, 2 Cor. 9:8-11.

[5] Luke 12:42, 1 Cor. 4:1-5, 1 Pet. 4:10

[6] Rom. 14:10-12, Rev. 22:12, 2 Cor. 5:10, 1 Cor. 3:12-15 etc.

[7] This is just the Hebrew word מַעֲשֵׂר ma’aser = tenth part

[8] Num. 18:21-24, Deut. 14:22-27. Justice lies at the heart of this tithe. Cf. Matt. 23:23.

[9] Deut. 12:5-14. See Deut. 16 for the feasts enumerated. Faithfulness lies at the heart of this tithe.

[10] Deut. 14:28-29, Lev. 19:9-10. Mercy lies at the heart of this tithe.

[11] This is the Hebrew word קָרְבָּן  qorban = offering, gift.

[12] firstfruits

[13] Num. 18:12-13.

[14] Cf. Ex. 25:1-2; 35:20-29, 1 Chron. 29:6-9.

[15] Prov. 11:24-26. Cf. 2 Cor. 9:6-9.

[16] In other words, they were to love God without limits.

[17] Lev. 19:18.  Jesus, of course, spoke of these commandments as summarizing all of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:34-40).

[18] This is especially highlighted in Scriptures such as Ex. 35:29; 36:3, Deut. 16:10. This is also emphasized in the New Testament (Cf. Luke 11:42, Matt. 23:23, 2 Cor. 8:8, 24; 9:7).

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