Money is something that we never like to hear about at Church, right?
It’s worth your time to just look at some interesting patterns when it comes to money and the Bible. If you’d like, Dave Ramsey has a great illustrative list of Bible verses on money. I also wrote a post about why we give to the poor earlier.
Every person cringes, or maybe they sleep in, when they hear that the Sunday sermon is going to be about giving. And, if I were to ask you what is the “golden standard” for giving in Church… you’d probably answer “the tithe” (if you grew-up in church). But was this really the standard in the OT???
Yes and No.
The term “tithe” just means 10%. There were actually several things that Israel was commanded by God to give. Israel was both a religious group and a nation. What they gave served the function, in many respects, of religious practice as well as many practical national needs like caring for the poor, education, etc.. This was God’s design, and I think it creates a good patter for life (just as the “6-day work week” creates a great patter for life).
The Hebrews didn’t have “pastors,” their clergy were usually the priests, or more specifically, the Levites. They provided for the ongoing regular ministry of their faith. They performed the services, did the funerals, married people, trained, organized, etc. Out of one’s income, the peope were to give a tithe (that is 10%) for the Levites (Num 18:21, 24). To put it in modern terms, this would be like the “general budget” of most churches. It provides for the regular, day-to-day, week-to-week ministries of the church.
The Hebrews also had 7 large festivals that were large celebrations each year. These were Purim “Festival of Lots,” Pesach “Passover,” Shavuot “Pentecost,” Rosh Hashanah “New Year,” Yom Kippur “Day Of Atonement,” Succot “Tabernacles,” and Simchat Torah “Rejoicing Of The Law” [plus, after the inter-testamental period, Chanukah “Festival of Lights”]. They were commanded to give another tithe (an additional 10%) for these services (Num 14:22-23). This was basically the “worship budget” for ancient Israel. What would church be like if we gave the same amount to the “general budget” and the “worship budget” and each of those were equivalent to 10% of our total annual incomes?
After the “general budget” and the “worship budget” were taken care of, there was one more tithe that Israel gave, it was set aside for the poor. This tithe was different, because it was taken every three years, not every year (Deut 14:28-29). Effectively, it was not 10% annually, but averaged out to 3.33% annually.
What does that tell you about the function intended for God’s people? what does that say for the church? Are we called to do “social” things? How important should “social justice” be to our churches if we follow this general pattern? Jesus is careful to place ministry to the poor in proper perspective (cf. Matt 26:11; Mark 14:7).
Here’s what I think, “social programs” are very important! God commanded his people to give of their resources to help the poor and to minister in this world, but this is no where near as important as the regular training, ministry, and worship functions of God’s people.
What do you think? What parallels can you see in OT Israel and the church today?