on the discussion of tithing

deuteronomy 14:22-28

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes forth from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place which he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and flock; that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.

(so the yearly 10% tithe was eaten or consumed, and not a “real” tithe but used by the tither themselves)

“At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in the same year, and lay it up within your towns…and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

(at the END of every three years, which can translate as once every four years. that part i do find a little confusing, will admit. but since the yearly tithing is eaten by the tither themselves, it is not really alms. and the only real alms then is the 10% tithe every 3-4 years that goes to the needy instead.)

the “10%” is established in another passage relating to one out of every ten livestock as offering.

i was pretty sure there was a passage somewhere that boiled it down to “10% of crops once every four years” but might have been in one of my grandmother’s older bibles…? or it’s a new testament passage or dead sea scrolls …

basically God commands to save a certain amount every year and indulge yourself. and then give up that indulgence at the end of every third year and give it to the poor instead.

there is a whole other discussion involving how a percentage of crops and livestock do not necessarily translate into a percentage of monetary income. my main concern when researching the matter years ago, was to establish that there was no actual “command” by God to submit 10% of income across the board. and i determined that IF one were to interpret that tithing is commanded by God, the amount of 10% is incorrectly applied since that is only done at the end of every three years.

it is interesting. some state that the actual jewish tithing amount was closer to 23% of crops and livestock. but i seriously do not see how they could get together once a year and consume 23% in one week of merry-making. that would have to be akin to the romans feasting and then vomiting so they could consume more …. though i suppose it would depend on the yield itself.

even so, 23% given once every 3 years equals 7.59% per year, since the designation is that it is the tithing OF that third year only. though that could become interesting, since crop yield varies year by year, and the yield for year 1 might be well below the yield for year 3, or vise versa.

but my interest was not in “proving” tithing is more or less or the same as a 10% flat tax, my interest was in disproving that God commands a 10% gift and no more or no less. there is enough gray area to justify gifts of the heart that do not necessarily fall into a pattern of theocratic flat-taxation.

“it is more of a guideline than a rule….” and the fact remains that 10% for one person could mean the difference between eating or starving, where 10% for a very wealthy person can mean little to nothing at all.

the reason the united states has tax brackets, is because of that flaw in a straight-percentage taxation system. in the days of the old testament, the landowner was the employer. tithing was essentially a business taxation, or practice. the workers or slaves of the field, did not give anything because they did not own anything. and the Levites or religious class was supported as citizens of substance from an extra tithing on their behalf by the landowners. so that amount would fluctuate, according to how many religious folk were hanging about.

as far as i’m concerned, i think of the parable within Mary Poppins — and “feed the birds.” the young boy, whose father wants him to put his money in the bank, and at the last moment the boy runs away, screaming that he wants to feed the birds. he wants to find the bird-lady, and buy from her the crumbs to feed the birds.

what is investment? yes, we invest in our churches. we build them up and pray that the Good Lord doesn’t tear them down. yet a church will always, always be an institution of man — in his search for God. and i’m pretty sure the God i know and have found over the years, would say “Heavens sakes! yes, feed the birds!”

because then the birds get to eat, and the old lady gets to eat and the Banks have a child that understands compassion. so whether or not you can give 10% of an income to a religious body, is not what any of it is about. like it says in Deuteronomy — the point is “the fear of the Lord your God.” doesn’t say the point is to pay the church bills. the REASON for giving — the entire purpose of tithing or an offering … is to acknowledge that self-sacrifice is a part of life. and only YOU can decide how much sacrifice makes you a better person.

Broken Wheel


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