“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23)
The word tithe means a tenth. Israel was to give a true tenth of the increase of their fields, literally of their gross profit. It was to be taken to the tabernacle and later to the temple where it would be shared with the Levites and priests. The tithe was to be of everything they produced, whether of grain, livestock olive oil or grape juice. Giving it was a way of acknowledging his provision and showing appreciation. It also demonstrated a measure of faith, in trusting God to make the balance enough. Failure to give it would result in forgetting what God had done, decreased faith, and loss of respect for him.
“And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 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: 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, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” (Deuteronomy 14:24-29)
If it was impractical to take the actual tithe to the tabernacle, they were allowed to sell it and bring the money instead. Because of the difficulty of making the trip every time, they could save up the tithes for three years and bring it all at once. The money could then be used to buy whatever they chose to eat, which was then to be shared in a time of fellowship with the family and whatever priests and Levites might be present. In addition to the Levites, it was to be shared with anyone who might have need, including the homeless, foreigners, widows or orphans. In return God would bless them in everything they did.
Tithing accomplishes the same purpose today. Missionaries and pastors who feel sorry for their people and don’t encourage them to tithe are hindering the spiritual growth of their people, and depriving them of God‘s blessings. People who appreciate what God has done for them have little difficulty tithing. On the other hand, pastors and churches which treat the money as just their own and don’t share quickly discourage people from tithing.
“At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release.
Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” (Deuteronomy 15:1-6)
In Matthew 26:11, Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” There will always be poor people for one reason or another. Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty was doomed to failure before he declared it. As a result there will always be people who need to sell something or borrow money. God gave specific instructions as to how to deal with the situation to prevent taking unfair advantage of unavoidable disasters people might experience while not sacrificing one’s own success.
Every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year. Any property that had been sold under duress was to be returned to it’s owner, and any loan was to be forgiven to any fellow Jew. This did not apply to outsiders. They would be able to afford this because God would bless them so richly. If they would follow his instructions, they would be able to lend to other nations, but would not need to borrow themselves.
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)
They were not to turn their backs on those who had need or refuse to help them, butr were to give freely. The possibility they might not make a profit back was not to enter into their decision to help someone in need. They were to willing pitch in to help even if sure they would lose money on the deal and not to worry about the loss.
“And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.” (Deuteronomy 15:12-18)
Because of debts, a person could be sold as a bond servant to pay off their debt, but the maximum servitude allowed was six years. On the seventh year, he was allowed to go free, and was to be provided with food and clothing to enable him to get a fresh start. Only if the person made a voluntary commitment to stay could he remain in service, and he was to have his ear pierced as an indication that he chose to be a servant. They were not to be upset at losing a servant, but to appreciate the work he had done for them, and remember that they could have still been in Egypt with no hope of freedom.
“All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep. Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household.
And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart. Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.” (Deuteronomy 15:19-23)
All the first born males of any clean animals were to be dedicated to the Lord. There was to be no effort to extract a profit from them by using them early or shearing them. If the animal was of sacrificial quality, it was to be taken to the tabernacle where it was to be eaten, but if not it was to be eaten at home.