The Israelites were to set aside a tenth of the produce of their land. I always thought this tenth was to go to the Levities (the church). I was mistaken!
According to Deuteronomy 14:
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.
So where did the whole “give the money to the church” tradition begin? Right here:
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
But the people are not to just live for themselves without a thought to those around them. In the next chapter, they are admonished:
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
I just love that word…”openhanded.” Perhaps that’s because I grew up with a father who was very openhanded to those around him. He’d give the shirt off his back…or the above-ground-swimming pool…or the satellite dish (remember those huge ones)…to a neighbor without charging a penny. So when I think of someone being “openhanded,” I remember the time my dad gave away the satellite dish that came with the house we bought. I think of my mother taking in a family member’s infant child for several months, caring for her as her own until her parents were able to take her back.
The Lord has blessed us beyond comprehension in this country. We are so fat with blessings that we take them for granted. I know I do. But each day I do pray that He will open my heart and my eyes and show me places where He wants me to be openhanded towards my community. I long to do His will. Sometimes being openhanded means giving time or talents. Sometimes it means volunteering. Sometimes it means donating food or clothing or financial assistance. I am grateful that I have the capacity to stand with open hands, giving of myself, in love and in thanksgiving.
Everything belongs to Him. Even me.