The ‘PRINCIPLE of GIVING’ to God’s WORK & WORKERS: Then the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites came near to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel. And they spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, "The Lord commanded through Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with their common-lands for our livestock." So the children of Israel gave to the Levites from their inheritance, at the commandment of the Lord, these cities and their common-lands. (Joshua 21:1-3)
During the last stages of allotting the land inheritance to the tribes, the heads of the tribe of Levi came to Joshua and the heads of the other tribes of Israel to claim for suitable places where they might settle with their families and possessions. In reality, the Levite leaders were pleading a Divine promise that was recorded back in Numbers 35:1–8. They were only asking for that land property to which they had a right granted to them by Jehovah!
The tribe of Levi had been set apart by God for the ministry of the tabernacle and other sacred responsibilities (Num. 3:11–51). Due to that, this tribe was exempt from any territorial allotment in the Promised Land. Instead, the Levites and their families were to reside in forty-eight cities scattered throughout the land (Josh. 21:41), six of which were the cities of refuge along with their common-lands for pasture. We can further see that the cities of refuge were scattered throughout all the tribes of Israel to fulfill the prophecy of Jacob (Gen. 49:5–7).
Since the Levites were to teach Israel the Law, it was necessary that these cities be scattered throughout the land to better facilitate their teaching ministry to the nation. It would have been such a blessing for all the Israelites to have God’s servants live among them and share the truth of God’s Word with them (Deut. 33:10). The Levites were thus to be custodians of Israel’s spiritual life, and their cities were distributed throughout the tribal territories: 13 in the south (v. 4), 10 in central Palestine (v. 5), 13 in the north (v. 6), and 12 east of the Jordan (v. 7).
To state this simply, this passage and the remaining chapter (21) shows the gracious provision that Jehovah God made to meet the physical needs of the Levites. The Levites who served God in the tabernacle and ministered to the congregation in holy things were to be suitably compensated by other tribes since the Levites had no land of their own (Deut. 10:8, 9; Joshua 13:14).
When we take this analogy to our times, the ministers of the Gospel are the counterparts of the Levites. This analogy was further clarified by Apostle Paul using the following words: "Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1 Cor 9:13-14). This act of giving was designed by God to counteract that selfish spirit and attachment to a present world which is common to all of us!
We can see an important principle of giving that should always govern our lives. In 2 Cor. 9:1, Apostle Paul states that it was superfluous for him to write concerning ministering to the saints of God, who have dedicated their lives for God’s ministry. Our giving should be "a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation" (2 Cor 9:5b), and when we give bountifully we will also be rewarded bountifully by God who is not unjust to forget our labor of love in giving (Heb. 6:10).