No one likes reading blogs about tithing. Most people don’t like listening to a sermon about tithing. Tithing is a taboo subject for so many people. As soon as you mention what you are doing or not doing regarding tithing, a fight erupts. People are called names, condemnation is cast, and churches divide.
So, this is not a blog about tithing. This is about attitude and how we worship God. Now, turn in your Bible to Deuteronomy, the book of the Bible that talks a lot about tithing.
This particular passage doesn’t say the word ‘tithe’ or ‘tithing’ but it is in the heading (see what I think of those here), so it can be a little misleading. What is actually being said here is about worship, about firstfruits, and the attitude we are supposed to have when we come to God.
If you want to start a fight about first fruits and tithing now, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are getting hung up on something that isn’t the focus of this article and actually drives you further away from what God is trying to teach Israel, and us, by virtue of our following Him and calling Him our King. This is about how we bring our tithes, how we worship, and how our attitudes need to change when you get together and honour our God.
Why am I being so moody and rude, sarcastic and annoyed (because normally my writing isn’t like this)? Because what these verse have to say is so very important. It is bigger than money. It is bigger than tithing. It is bigger than an opinion or theory about how to fund the Kingdom of God.
Within these verse is a life changing posture that God wants us to have. A way of approaching Him, one consistent with the whole of Scripture, that we need to take in our churches, in our bible studies, in our every day lives. In these few verses from Deuteronomy is a way of orienting your life so that God is glorified in all things, so that you are more thankful, so that you are more at peace with your life. This orientation, this way of doing life will help you to be see that God is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15)”. It will help remind you of what is true, of what is trustworthy, of who is trustworthy when life seems to be falling apart.
When I found this passage, I was not coming to God in worship with a good attitude. I was often angry, often upset because everything else in my life was in chaos. Bills needed to be paid. Groceries need to be bought. Work was less than exciting and soul satisfying. What ‘blessings’ I had were not bringing me joy, rather they brought frustration and anxiety. Everything was piling up, and nothing seemed up to the task of conquering them or making them seem like they were molehills, rather than the mountains I was making them.
But this passage, and the Spirit’s prompting, has changed things for me. Is still changing things for me.
This is not a guarantee that things will magically get better, that bills will be paid or life’s problems melt away like the snow in July. But it is going to orient your spirit to a place where you will realize how much God has blessed, how much He has done for you, and how humbled we should be that we are so blessed and loved.
On to the Scriptures.
“Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labour. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.” Deuteronomy 26:5-10 NIV
This verse is placed in the context of firstfruits and tithing, but just leave that alone for a minute. Look at what God tells Israel to say when they come before Him.
“My father was a wandering Aramean”
God wants the Israelites to repeat this when they bring their firstfruits to the Tabernacle, and lay them down at the alter. Not to be burnt, just to be laid in front of the alter. There, the offerer is supposed to say these words. Chances are though that their father wasn’t actually a wandering Aramean.
What God is getting Israel to do is retell their history. Their father, the one that was a wandering Aramean, was Jacob. Remember Jacob? The twin brother of Esau; the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
We tend to think highly of Jacob. We use his name in identifying God, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But we quickly forget, Jacob was a thief. He was a liar. He was a swindler that took his brother and his father for fools, taking a birthright from Esau, and two blessings from his father. He was a schemer. The villain in shadows wringing his hands together as his plan came together, and at the same time, the world’s biggest chicken. Quick to steal, but so afraid of the consequences. When Esau found out that Jacob stole his blessing, Esau looked for his brother, but Jacob had already fled the country.
This was Israel’s father. This is our father. And we are his son.
We are just like our fathers. I’m just like my dad. My dad is a brilliant man. My dad has rocked a beard longer than I have been alive and it still looks amazing. He has hundreds of books stacked in his office, just waiting to be read. And I am just like that. I am just like my father.
We are all just like our father Jacob though. We are all thieves. We are all liars. We have all taken what wasn’t ours, running away scared that we would be punished. We are schemers, trying to get ourselves ahead or improve our situation at someone else’s cost. We are all sinners, just like Jacob was. Like father, like son. The dark slough of sin that coursed through his veins, courses through ours.
God says when you come to worship, this is what you say, “My father was a sinner, and I am just like him…”
And don’t forget the “wandering” part of that verse, “My father was a wandering Aramean”. That word “wandering” is going to carry a lot of weight to it.
Because Jacob was wandering, he had no home. He had no place to lay his head is what Genesis says before he uses a stone as a pillow. He had no family, no close relatives to talk to or confide in. He was an ancient hobo, a pariah. Jacob wasn’t giving to society, he was stuck in a place where he had to given everything to live. We would have signed him up for welfare, or sent him on his way to the Food Banks. He had nothing. And why? His sin. His actions. The choices that Jacob made lead him down this path.
This is our father, and we are just like him.
God has the Israelites continue telling their story, how Jacob went down to Egypt, how Egypt oppressed them, how Egypt mistreat them and abused them. A moment ago Israel was retelling the story of how they were the victimizer. They were the schemer. They were the liar, the thief. And now they are telling themselves how they are also the victims.
They have abused. They have been abused. They have used others. They have been used by others. They have been victim and victimizer. What a powerful insight. Israel, as a nation, is guilty of refusing grace, refusing goodness to people, and yet they are in need of grace, in need of goodness from people.
This is our story as well. We have been beaten down. We have been taken advance of. Chance are not like the Israelites, but verbally, sexually, physically, emotionally, even spiritually, we have been mistreated and abused. Sometimes it is by strangers, other times, it happens by the hands of those we love the most.
We are both victimizer and victim. Just like Israel.
Do you see how this whole thing as completely reoriented your emotions? Do you see how it as shifted you thinking? Even as you read this, even as I’m writing this my mind and spirit are going back to the times that I was hurt, times that I was beaten down; but also the times that I was the one hurting, the times I was lording my power and authority over others. The sense of humility washes over you like a tidal wave, like a tsunami. Completely. Whatever I was feeling before, whatever my day was like, it doesn’t stand up to what God has just walked me through.
My father was a wandering Aramean, a liar, a thief. And I am just like him. He was a victimizer, using and abusing people throughout his life. And I am just like him.
He was also a victim, used and abused. And I am just like him.
How powerful this exercise. How powerful this spiritual ritual, to completely reshape your thinking, your attitude, all with a simple repeating of some words. But the most powerful part is yet to come. The spiritual ritual is not over. The exercise is not done.
“We cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice.”
This is just the start but already, just reading that my spirit gets giddy. I am thinking and dwelling on the reality that I am a victim, while at the same time I am a victimizer, and in my shame and in my grief, God hears me.
What can I do about my shame? What can I do about my grief? How do I fix the pain I have caused? How do I heal from my pain? I cried out to God and He heard me. But it isn’t just that He heard. Great, someone is crying and whining. No, God heard. He listened. Then He took action.
“So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey…”
God heard our cry, the cry of the victimizer, the cry of the victim, the cry of people that had dug their own grave with the actions that they took. God could just as easily left Israel where they were. God did not owe them anything. God was not in debt to Israel. Nor is God in debt to us. He doesn’t have to save us. There is no obligation there.
But the grace of God abounds so greatly, the love of God is so powerful that even the most worthless wretches, even the vilest offender, even those that are stuck in a place that they created for themselves, He will save us from our sin, and bless us.
The thief, the schemer, the liar was overwhelmed with good things because of God’s grace. The hurt, the broken, the victim was overwhelmed with blessings because of God’s goodness. The nation of Israel was taken aback because of the love of God for a victim and victimizer people. That He would move heaven and earth, and give them the best of that both had to offer.
That God would give us life, when we rightly deserve death; that God would bless us with families and friends, when we have used and abused relationships; that God would give us jobs and money, when we are routinely waste His gifts; that God would look at victimizer and see them as loveable and worthy creatures; that He would look at victims and give healing and new life.
That God would not only offer this to Israel, but that God would offer these rich blessings to us. That even some 10,000 years later, God is still looking at the victims and victimizers and saying “I still care about you. I still love you. I still want to bless you and give you good things.”
My sin doesn’t hang over my head and condemn me. It doesn’t discount me from being a recipient of God’s goodness. Remember, Jacob was a victimizer. He was the bad guy, but still God chose to show him love, to show him blessing, to give him good things time and time again. Being a liar, a schemer, a user and abuser didn’t chance the love that God had for him. And it doesn’t change the love that God has for you or me. Even now, in whatever category you would put yourself into, victim or victimizer, user or used, God still loves you. He still wants to shower you with blessings and good things.
Why? Because that is who He is. Because God is love. Everything action, everything that He does is out of His overwhelming love for you, and for me. And He didn’t just start showing it to us on the cross through the death of Jesus, but He has been showing it regularly and consistently since the beginning of time, and He will continue to do so until the end, and beyond that.
When I take all this information in, when I realize that I am a victimizer and a victim, when I realize that all that I have is a blessing that God has bestowed on me in His love, what course of action could I possibly take?
Israel knew. The last portion of the Scripture says, “and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.”
The only acceptable reaction is worship. The only right response is to lay down whatever things God has blessed us with, humbly, and admit that He is the giver of all good things. That our lives are so full and flourishing because He has loved on us, and is loving on us, and will always love on us. The only thing that we can do is offer up relentless and heartfelt worship.
Just take a moment and let that all sink in. Let the truth and the power of what God taught Israel wash over your soul.
What a powerful adjustment to your attitude. What a realigning of the spirit. Whatever you felt, whatever you were thinking is somehow washed away, completely replaced with a humbled and thankful spirit.
Like I said at the beginning, when I found this passage, I was not coming to God in worship with a good attitude. But what a difference coming to God, going through this ritual, has on my own attitude. Think about when you come to worship, when you walk in the church doors, what is your attitude like?
What a world of difference this passage of Scripture makes. And not just for myself, or for Israel, but what a difference this would make for the Church at large.
Imagine starting your worship service like this? Where, as a body of believers, you told the collective story of how you are all sinners, all victimizers? About how you are all victims, wounded and broken people? And then came together to see how God has blessed you all over and over again in great and powerful ways? What if the church started its time of corporate worship by acknowledging who was God, who was the giver of all good things, who was the great lover of your soul?
And then what if we took that attitude of humility and deep gratitude into our tithing and offerings?
I’m not going to talk about tithing. I’m not going to join in the argument. But we need to check our attitudes before we do anything. We need to remember who we are, victims and victimizers, all richly blessed by a loving God. And how of that humility and richly blessing, we should be driven to worship, in song, in dance, in giving of our tithes.
Check your attitude. It will make a world of difference.
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