Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tithing (2) Law or Grace

Most biblical teaching on tithing is in the Law of Moses. Most Christians respond to this by saying that we live under grace, not law, so that we can ignore commands about tithing. This response is too simplistic.

God gave his laws to Moses to provide a system of government that would allow people to live in relative peace in a new land. These laws are still God's standard of justice. God also included Instructions for Economic Life to guide their economic interaction. The still stand. The law of Moses also provided a system of sacrifices to deal with sin until Jesus should come and deal with it completely. These sacrifices were fulfilled by Jesus, so they are no longer applicable to his followers.

The Law of Moses provide wisdom for dealing with numerous issues that still exist, so we cannot just say that the entire law of Moses is redundant, because it is replaced by grace. We must assess each group of commands and decide if they have been fulfilled by Jesus. We no longer need to obey those that he has fulfilled, such as the tabernacle sacrifices. However, there are other laws that are still relevant. We must decide which category the commands about tithing belong to, before choosing to ignore them.

The Hebrew word for tithing means “tenth”. Tithing is defined in Leviticus.

A tenth of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD (Lev 27:30).
A tenth of everything that grows on the land belongs to God. This includes grain and fruit from trees.
Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD. No one may pick out the good from the bad (Lev 27:32-33).
A similar principle applies to domestic animals. The phrase “passes under the shepherd’s road” is not clear. I presume that this refers to all new animals that are born into the flock or herd. If God took a tenth of the entire flock each year, it would almost disappear after ten years. It makes more sense that a tenth of animals that are born belong to the Lord.

The animals that belong to the Lord must be selected randomly. The farmer cannot pick out which ones he will give because the might be tempted to keep the best ones for himself.

Redeeming the Tithe
If the farmer wants to keep some of the grain from the tithe, he can swap it for money, but he must pay an extra fifth.

Whoever would redeem any of their tithes must add a fifth of the value to it (Lev 27:31).
If the farmer wants to keep some of the grain or livestock for breeding, he might decide to redeem it. Similarly, if the tithe is too difficult to transport to the temple, he might decide to swap if for money that is easier to carry. The person redeeming some of their tithe must pay an extra fifth.

Leviticus allowed the farmer to swap a tithed animal for another if it is needed for breeding, but the animal that is swapped cannot be redeemed.

If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed (Lev 27:33).

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