Categories
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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Christian Living

How to Deal with Poverty

We Should Continue to Remember the Poor

The Bible talks about the poor and teaches how to deal with poverty. Poverty shows up 21 times in the Bible, most in the practical advice-giving book of Proverbs. The word poor appears much more often at 176 times.

Combined, these passages give us much insight in how to deal with poverty and those who are poor.

Here are some key verses to consider:

Jesus tells us to be generous to those who are poor (Luke 11:41). This is the only verse we need. Jesus says it. We should do it. And don’t just give a little, be generous about it.

In addition, Peter, James, and John encourage Paul to continue to remember the poor, which he had been eagerly doing all along (Galatians 2:9-11).

We should follow their advice and example in how to deal with poverty, both that which is around us and throughout the world.

Jesus, however, says that we will always have the poor among us (Mark 14:7). This means we’ll never eliminate poverty—as some people hope to do. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

We should do whatever we can to help those who go without. And as we do so, we should do so in love (1 Corinthians 13:3).

These all address the problem of poverty. It reacts to what already exists. But what if we could be proactive and help people avoid poverty in the first place?

Consider this excerpt from my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide:

Many have cited the following three steps to avoid poverty. The source is unclear but may have originated with Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution.

Young people can avoid poverty if they follow three essential rules for success:

1. Complete at least a high school education

2. Work full-time

3. Wait until age twenty-one to marry, and get married before having a baby

People who follow all three rules have a 98 percent chance of not living in poverty. Furthermore, they have a 72 percent chance of joining the middle class.

Many people criticize this claim, some citing all manner of hate-filled motivations or ignorance. Yet if we look at this list, we know in our hearts that it’s correct. It’s common sense.

We can also logically see how someone who ignores these three essentials places themselves on a path that will likely lead them to needing government assistance and living a life of poverty.

What can we do to encourage teenagers to embrace these three essential rules?

Beyond that, what can we do to help those who didn’t or couldn’t follow them and find themselves in need? I’m thinking especially of the teenage mom left to care for her children on her own.

These are big questions without clear answers, but a good place to start is to find an organization already addressing one of these areas and working with them to make a difference.

Peter DeHaan from Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide

Quite simply, one response in how to deal with poverty is to encourage young people to make wise decisions and not rush into adulthood.

To do this, we can encourage them to complete high school, find the full-time job, and wait until their 21 to get married and have children.

For each person we encourage to do this, we help them avoid poverty. This may be the best way in how we can deal with poverty.

And for those who find themselves impoverished, we should do what Jesus says and give generously.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

David Affirms God

Psalm 166  from Beyond Psalm 150

After God tells David—through Nathan—that he is not the one to build God’s temple, David collects materials for its future construction. In addition to his own resources, other leaders also give willingly toward the temple’s construction.

In this the people and David rejoice. Here’s what David says.

You are blessed, Yahweh, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, Yahweh, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty! For all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, Yahweh, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all! In your hand is power and might! It is in your hand to make great, and to give strength to all! Now therefore, our God, we thank you, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from you, and we have given you of your own. For we are strangers before you, and foreigners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no remaining. Yahweh our God, all this store that we have prepared to build you a house for your holy name comes from your hand, and is all your own. I know also, my God, that you try the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things. Now I have seen with joy your people, who are present here, offer willingly to you. Yahweh, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the heart of your people, and prepare their heart for you; and give to Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for which I have made provision.

1 Chronicles 29:10–19 (WEB)

Reflection on David Affirms God

This example of people who give willingly, generously, and with joy delights David and surely delights Yahweh. Much later, the apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth that God loves those who give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Do we give like the people in David’s day: willingly, generously, and with joy? Do we align with Paul’s encouragement to give cheerfully? May we give to God and his causes with motives that lift our spirits and delight him.

Explore the other psalms—sacred songs of praise, petition, and lament—scattered throughout the Bible in Peter’s book Beyond Psalm 150.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Do You Excel at the Grace of Giving?

Discover What Paul Might Mean by This Curious Phrase

There is a curious phrase in the Bible: “grace of giving.” It occurs only in Paul’s second letter to his friends at the church in Corinth.

Without it appearing elsewhere in the Bible, there are no other verses we can use to grasp a better understanding of this curious phrase.

Not Begrudgingly

In considering it, the grace of giving could imply we are to give graciously. The opposite is to give begrudgingly, and that’s not good. A gift given resentfully is hardly a gift at all. Gracious giving is the goal.

Generosity

Alternately, grace of giving could suggest generosity. We give what others need and then give more. Or we give what we can and then make sacrifices to give more.

We give “above and beyond” expectations. This, too, may be the grace of giving.

Offer Grace

While there is value in both these considerations, I think there is an even better one. God gives his grace to us; we should give a bit of that grace to others.

This could be money. Or it could be kindness, tolerance, acceptance, or any number of the amazing gifts God has given us, his undeserving followers.

The Grace of Giving

Regardless of how we understand the phrase grace of giving and what it precisely means, the key is to give.

We are to give to others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7-9 and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 8:7.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine Our Motives When We Give

Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. It’s about generosity.

He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What Should We Avoid?

Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold.

But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way.

When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2).

Blessed to Be a Blessing

God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle Generosity

In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7-9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Bible Says to Put Others First

Do Not Seek Your Own Good, But What’s Best for Others

We live in a narcissistic, self-centered world. We put ourselves first and care only about what’s in our best interest. Too many people live their life with the attitude that “it’s all about me.”

In doing so, they miss so much. Instead, we should put others first.

Let me share a secret: It’s not all about us. It should be about everyone else. When we put others before us, we help them and enrich ourselves in the process.

Paul reminds the church in Corinth about this. He tells them directly, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24, NIV).

While this can go to extremes, most people have no worry about that.

On an airplane, for example, the instructions say that if the oxygen masks drop to put yours on first, then help your neighbor. If you don’t, you might pass out before you can help others in need. Then everyone suffers.

I also read of a family so intent on feeding their starving neighbors that some of them starved themselves to death in the process.

No, self-preservation is crucial, but beyond that, put others first. The Bible says to. What’s this look like? It’s up for each of us to decide.

Ideas to Put Others First

  • It could be as simple as standing aside to let someone get in line ahead of us.
  • It might be giving someone a ride even though it will make us late. (What if we’re on our way to church?)
  • How about giving up a seat on the bus and standing?
  • Perhaps this means mowing our neighbor’s lawn even though ours needs attention.
  • Should we take the last piece of pizza or let someone else have it?
  • What about walking so someone else can use our car?
  • Even more bold, how about giving someone our car because he or she needs it more.

We can do many things to seek the good of others, so many that it might overwhelm. But instead of letting the magnitude of options paralyze us into inaction, pick one thing to do for others and then do it.

Doing good for others is the right thing to do.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8-10, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 10:24.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Give Generously and Not Begrudgingly

We Must Take Care of the Poor Among Us

As we read through the law of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy, we come across a command that says that we are to “give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

We might have the inclination to dismiss this command as part of the old covenant, which Jesus came to fulfill, but remember that he modeled and taught generosity.

For example, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to give to those who ask and don’t ignore those who want to borrow (Matthew 5:42).

This Old Testament command says to give generously to “them.” But who does them refer to? The context in Deuteronomy is other Israelites.

We can extend this concept to us today and apply it by saying that it means those in our church or other followers of Jesus.

This is an ideal place to start, but Jesus’s command to give doesn’t limit us to our own congregation or spiritual community. The context of the passage in Matthew seems to include everyone.

Applying Moses is teaching in Deuteronomy to Jesus’s call to give, adds the stipulation to not do so begrudgingly, that is, without a grudging heart. To give generously with the wrong attitude is disobedience.

There’s one more item from Moses’s teaching. He promises a reward for those who give generously and not grudgingly. He promises God’s blessings to those who give. The blessings apply to their work and everything they do.

But Jesus doesn’t promise a blessing when we give. He just says to do it. This should be enough. If we receive a blessing for our generosity, that’s a bonus.

May we give generously to those in need without thought to a reward, because Jesus says to—and it’s the right thing to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 13-15 and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 15:7-10.]

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Bible Insights

Blessed to be a Blessing

God Blesses Us So That We Can Be a Blessing to Others

God wants to bless us. He loves us and wants to give us his best. This idea of blessing occurs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God often ties his blessings to the people’s obedience and to the attitudes of their hearts.

Yet, the first time we encounter this word in the Bible, it’s God’s unconditional promise to bless Abraham. He does this prior to Abraham doing anything to demonstrate his obedience to God’s commands or his faith.

God blessed Abraham for Abraham’s sake, but there’s more. Through Abraham, God promised to bless all the people on the earth through him (Genesis 12:2-3). In short, God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others.

But this doesn’t just apply to Abraham. The word bless occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments. It’s a reoccurring theme.

More specifically, the phrase bless you occurs fifty times. Furthermore, the idea of blessing other people shows up four dozen times, and blessing nations shows up another fifteen.

God expects us to be a blessing to others. We should view God’s provisions to us from this perspective. He blesses us—he prospers us—so that we can be a blessing to others. Here are some ways we can do this:

Donate Money

For many people, when they consider the idea of blessing others, they think of money. Providing financially for others is an ideal way to be a blessing to them.

We can use the money God has blessed us with to give to organizations whose mission aligns with our passions. We can also give money directly to people in need.

In both cases, however, we must be good stewards of God’s financial blessings to us so that they will have the best kingdom impact.

Share Possessions

We can also be a blessing to others when we share our possessions. When we have things we don’t need, we shouldn’t throw them away. Instead, we should give them away.

We can give directly to individuals in need or to organizations, who will in turn give them away or sell them to raise money for their cause.

Yet let’s move our thinking beyond our castoffs. We can also give possessions that we still use, that still have value to us, to others. If someone has more need of it than we do, then maybe we need to give it to them.

In these ways, we can be a blessing to others.

Give Time

Aside from material items, consider our time. We can give our time to help others. This can occur by volunteering for various organizations focused on helping others.

It can also occur directly by helping a neighbor who could use some assistance.

And lest anyone complains that “I don’t have enough time,” let me remind you that we all have 24 hours in each day. We choose how to use that time. Why not choose to give some of it away?

Mentor Others

A specific way to be a blessing to others with our time is to do one-on-one mentoring. In this way we invest ourselves in them, helping them to have a better life, be it physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Pray for Others

A final option—the most important one—is something that everyone can do. We can all pray for others. And we can start today, right now.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

In both large and small ways, God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Bible Insights

Why It’s Important that We Prosper

Prosperity Is Not a Bad Word, and We Must Start Embracing It as Good

A popular pastime today is to decry prosperity as an evil that plagues the world. These folks think that all people who prosper are greedy and selfish—though some are.

They advocate taking from those who have and give to those who have not. In truth, these people aren’t interested in helping the poor as much as they are envious that others have more than they do.

They miss the point that God wants us to prosper.

The Bible has much to say about prosper and prosperity. We often think of prosper in terms of money, but it also applies to other areas of our life.

Our family can prosper. We can prosper by enjoying good health. And we can prosper in intangible ways when we lead a God-honoring life.

Consider some of what the Bible says about the idea of prospering:

  • God plans to prosper his people and not harm them, plans to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God told Jacob to go back home and he would prosper (Genesis 32:9).
  • Obey God that we may live long and prosper (Deuteronomy 5:33).
  • Walk in obedience with God and do all he says so that you will prosper in everything you do and everywhere you go (1 Kings 2:3).
  • A person who gives generously will prosper (Proverbs 11:25).
  • Those who trust in God will prosper (Proverbs 28:25).
  • You will prosper more, and then you will know that I am your Lord (Ezekiel 36:11).
  • God made his people prosper while they were in Egypt (Acts 13:17).

Some of these verses apply to individuals, while other passages have a broader audience, but the point we can glean from all these verses—and many others in the Bible—is that God loves us. And he wants us to prosper.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

But many people desiring prosperity, miss the point of why. They think their prosperity is for their benefit and theirs alone. Taken to an extreme we end up with a prosperity gospel and a prosperity theology. Don’t go there.

These overreaches miss the basic biblical truth that God wants us to prosper. He wants to bless us. But why?

God doesn’t bless us with success and wealth so that we can live extravagant self-centered lives. He blesses us not for ourselves but for the sake of others.

God told Abraham, “I will bless you and you will in turn bless others” (Genesis 12:2). This means that God’s blessings are not for us to consume or to squander in conspicuous living.

Our blessings are to share with others. As God is generous with us, may we be as generous toward others.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Bible Insights

3 Lessons from the Early Church

Dr. Luke Describes 3 Characteristics of the Acts 4 Church

The book of Acts unfolds as an historical narrative of the early church, the activities of the first followers of Jesus and those who join them.

For the most part, Acts simply describes what happens, with little commentary and few instructions for proper conduct.

While we can look to Acts as a possible model for Christian community, we would be in error to treat it as a requirement for right behavior. In this way Acts can inform us today, but it doesn’t command us.

For example, if I wrote, “My church went to a baseball game after the service,” no one (I hope) would think I was saying that attending baseball games is prescriptive of Christian life.

No. It was merely descriptive of what one church did one time. We would never build our theology on a statement like that.

So it is with the book of Acts. Yet we can learn from it. Luke writes three things about that church:

Christian Unity

The Acts 4 church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with Jesus’s prayer.

Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it. I hope unity describes every one and every congregation.

Community Minded

In the Acts 4 church, no one claims their possessions as their own. It isn’t my things and your things; it is our things. They have a group mentality and act in the community’s best interest.

While we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, notice that this isn’t a command. They just do it out of love.

Willing to Share

Last, the Acts 4 church shares everything they have. Not some things, not half, but all. This would be a hard thing for many in our first-world churches to do today but not so much in third-world congregations.

Again, this isn’t a command (and later on Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional, Acts 5:4); it is just a practice that happens at this moment of time in the early church. 

While these three characteristics should inspire us to think and behave differently, and can provide a model for our gatherings and interactions, we need to remember that the Bible gives us no commands to pursue a communal-type church.

We can, but it’s one option. Of the three only unity rises as an expectation because Jesus yearns for it to be so.

That should give us plenty to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 1-4 , and today’s post is on Acts 4:32.]

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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.