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In the Gates

Tithes of Possessions

Leviticus 27.30-33

Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD. One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”

Leviticus 22.1-3; 1 Corinthians 9.16-21

Tithes were also to be given from among the flocks and herds of Israel. These may have been somewhat harder to part with, since animals are the source of so much good, but God required them nonetheless. In giving up animals the people of Israel were forfeiting not only immediate good but what we might refer to as opportunity cost – the opportunity for more goods to consume or sell, as well as for more offspring.

God understands this full well. It pleases Him for us to give sacrificially to His work, without grumbling or complaining, and in the full assurance that we can never give away more than He is able to provide in meeting all our needs.

The idea that we should not “differentiate between bad and good” is interesting. The giving of the firstfruits was literally to be that. The first of the harvest and the first of the flocks to pass under the staff were to be given to the Lord. Some of that fruit, grain, or flesh may not have been quite perfect. But the tithe is not like a sacrifice, which was to be pure and without blemish. In giving a tithe for the needs of the priests and Levites Israel shared their lives with these servants. The servants, in turn, shared in their lives, both the good and bad of them.

Now no one should have thought that he could select only the worst of his crop or herds to give to as the tithe. Just set apart the first tenth of all that you gather and bring that in as is, whether good or bad. Nor must one be expected to take the time to set apart only what is good. The Lord required the firstfruits, good and bad alike, and He expected His people to give them faithfully and His servants to receive them joyfully.

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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