UNDERSTAND our RESPONSIBILITY towards the POOR
February 25 Bible Reading: Deuteronomy Chapters 13-15
"You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do." (Deut. 14:27-29)
Throughout the Bible the interests of the poor and needy are connected with the interests of God. The reason for caring for the underprivileged was that God would bless the giver. This is why James describes pure religion in this manner: "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). Obviously, the orphans and widows were considered as the poor and downtrodden in the society as they were lacking basic support for everyday living.
In the similar manner, the Levites had no allotted land or assigned duties outside of the sanctuary. It was generally assumed that certain classes of people would be at an economic disadvantage in the Jewish society: Levites, strangers (or, non-Israelite foreigners), orphans, and widows. So, the rest of the tribes were required to support them so that they would be free to serve God and the congregation. The measure of support given to the Levites would be one indication of Israel’s obedience to God as they were commanded never to forsake the Levite who lived among them to serve God (see Deut. 12:19).
In fact, God commanded the Israelites to periodically part with one-tenth of their produce (or, income) for three reasons: to celebrate the abundance that He had provided (14:22–26); to provide for the Levites who owned no land because they were responsible for the tabernacle and worship (14:27; Num. 18:20–24); and to provide for the poor (14:28–29). In order to provide for these disadvantaged groups of people, ten percent of every third year’s produce was to be set aside for their use. This produce was to be stored within their gates (14:28), indicating that the aid should be collected and administered by the cities, which was a form of community charity.
Every three years the Israelites were allowed to have sacrificial feasts on their own, during which they were to invite the Levites, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans to these feasts and give them the tithe of their produce of the third year. This became known as ‘the third tithe’, or, ‘the poor tithe’. This under-privileged of society were at the mercy of God, who provided for them through the tithe of the abundance of their neighbors, thus uniquely binding the community together and pointing the people to God who alone provided every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
Let’s also never forget "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for (our) sakes He became poor, that (we) through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9). In fact, we should glorify God in what we receive and also in what we give out to others. In both our receiving and in our giving, we should glorify God and joyfully serve Him (1 Cor. 10:31). Even though we are not bound by the law of the tithe today, the principles still apply for us as we celebrate God’s blessing, support those in vocational Christian work, and provide for the poor. Today, God wants us to feast and be joyful in light of His provision and goodness, and freely give out just as we have freely received from God Himself (Matt. 10:8). In time, we will reap what we sow into the lives of others!