Deut 25-27; 1 Thess 5; Psalm 119:145-160
The law of tithing is a thorny issue at best. As more than one observer has noted, it provides an easy out for the wealthy who can easily afford it . . . (cf the story of the pharisee and the publican) – yet at the same time it is a remedy for our refusal to live as God’s children, that we are called to live in imitation of him who doesn’t hold back at 10%.
As we read these verses from Deuteronomy “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns,” note the reason given for the tithe . . . So that various people who have no land on which to grow their own food, those excluded from the means of production of that which our bodies need for life, those who cannot have bread – have bread.
The Law of the Tithe is not given as a means of righteousness, it is given as a guard against our ungodliness, as indeed is all Law. Thus there is Nothing to be gained by the one who keeps the Law, for all the law does is ensure that the person and those around them live at the bare level of decency and do no further damage to the Imago Dei, than their otherwise self-centered lives do, demeaning the name of the one in whose image they are made.
We are called to meet the needs of the needy – this is the new Commandment, the Law of Love. Still, sadly to this day there are too many of us, all of us to a degree, who see ‘love’ as affection, rather than action. The True contemplative does not live a life in what one writer calls, ‘The desert of nonparticipation’ Life is only known in relationship – Life is Love. And Love Acts – Love takes on flesh – Love gives to the needy, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked – actually This now in the light of Christ is that bare level of human decency (Luke 3:11), apart from the gift of the Spirit. This is Basic humanity. It is only the beginning of the life of discipleship – in a sense it is no more than the law of the tithe . . .(Matt 19:21)