Christian Living

Consider Moses’s Triennial Tithe

Help Feed Those Who Are in Need

The Old Testament law of Moses commands multiple tithes, not just one. The one in today’s passage is a triennial tithe—every third year. The purpose of this one is to help feed the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless, and the widows.

Giving this tithe to the Levites suggest it may also include priests since they all descend from Levite.

The priests, however, are covered elsewhere, so we can understand the meaning of Levites in this passage to include all the rest of the Levites who are not priests.

Their job supports the work of the priests in worshiping God. They deserve to eat, and this tithe helps.

The other three groups of people covered by this triennial tithe are foreigners, orphans, and widows. They all face a disadvantage in life.

First, foreigners are outsiders and not included in God’s promises to his chosen people. Yet the Lord wants his children to provide for their daily nutrition.

The orphans and widows struggle to take care of themselves, which presents a challenge in the male-focused culture of their day. God wants his people to likewise help feed them.

In addition to this triennial tithe, God has other provisions to help care for the needy. He permits gleaning and commands that the harvesters facilitate the effort.

There’s also the year of jubilee, which occurs every fifty years. This provides for debt relief and property restoration. He also prohibits charging excessive interest. These provisions all serve to help the poor and needy.

Do we need to follow this example today and give a triennial tithe to help the staff at church, foreigners in our land, and orphans and widows? We can, but we don’t have to.

Remember that Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17).

Therefore, our Savior offers us a better way. Instead of a tithe, Jesus tells us to give generously to the poor (Luke 11:41).

We should do that. And generously may mean giving more than ten percent, that is, going beyond Moses’s triennial tithe.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 25-27 and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 26:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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