I’ll be frank: I am pretty sick of the way most teaching about “the tithe” (giving 10% of your income to God) is presented. Anyone else?
It’s usually talked about in one of two ways, and perhaps if you’ve spend any time in church you’ve heard one or both of these:
WAY ONE: “God expects you to tithe, so you’d better do it.”
WAY TWO: “God promises that if you give Him 10%, He’s going to bless you way more.”
Now don’t get me wrong, Biblically both of these are true, but is that the only way we can understand the tithe? Really? My motivation to give to God is either duty or self-interest? Are those the only two options?
It’s because of this frustration that I was so excited about what I read in Deuteronomy 14. Nestled away in the middle of this thick book, God talks about the tithe, not in terms of losing something, but rather using something for God’s glory and the joy of His children…
In this account, God doesn’t recommend, He commands His people to FEAST “in the presence of the Lord”, and look how He explains exactly how they should do this… (NOTE: I’ve included three different translations… you’ll see why.)
NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
24 “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen.26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household.
ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION (25-26)
25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
KING JAMES VERSION (25-26)
25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household…
Take a look again at the first part of verse 26… The word rendered “alcoholic drink” and “strong drink” is the Hebrew word “shêkâr”, which literally means “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor: – strong drink, strong wine.”
Now, don’t misunderstand here. I’m not making a blanket recommendation for alcohol. I’m not advocating excess, because Scripture is clearly against that. I’m not even interested in this post about the issue of “to drink or not to drink”. What I’m interested in is the fact that God Almighty says to His people, “when you come to worship me through giving, there is a time for sacrificing and going without, and there is a time for celebrating and going ALL OUT.”
What would it mean for our walk with Christ if we began to not only use our money to BUILD God’s Kingdom, but to actually ENJOY living in it, too?
One final thought. Remember the second half of verse 26, “Feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household.” There is a place for sacrificial giving to be sure. The work of God needs to be funded by His people so others can experience the joy of a relationship with Christ. However, there is also a place to be lavish with the money God’s entrusted to us, not to be selfish pleasure-seekers, but to be selfless celebrators of a God who is so generous to His people.
This means hospitality.
This means taking a friend or a family out to dinner.
This means having picnics and potlucks and church suppers and backyard barbecues, and making sure that in all of our celebrating, we take the time and effort to give glory to God with both our actions and our words so that others will know that our God is a giver, and He is glorified not just in the sacrifices of His people, but in their celebrations, too.
What do YOU think about all this?