You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.…
In every province of human life God requires his proprietorship to be recognized. The seventh part of our time is hallowed for his service. The firstfruits of corn were to be devoted to religious uses. The firstborn in the household belonged to God, and was to be redeemed by substitution. And now, of all their yearly gains, one-tenth was claimed by God.
I. THE GROUND OF GOD'S CLAIM. His claim proceeds from his proprietorship. Towards the Hebrews he was obviously and directly landlord. He had put them into possession of their estates, and rightfully could exact from them a rent. And with respect to all national substance, God is absolute Proprietor. He has an original and indefeasible right as Creator; and it is his supreme power that maintains in existence the treasures of the earth. Even the power we have to accumulate wealth is derived from the same beneficent Source. It is his gift, not that he has conveyed to us the irresponsible right in it, but simply in the sense that we had nothing with which to purchase it. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."
II. A DEFINITE PROPORTION DEMANDED. It was competent for God to make such terms as he pleased with men. He might justly have permitted for our own use a bare existence, and required us to devote to him the residue of our gains. Or he might very properly have exacted as his tribute one-half. Whatever had been his will in the matter, it would become us meekly to acquiesce. He did make known his will very clearly to the Jews, and his terms were very generous. So small a portion as one-tenth he condescended to take, and even this was expended in advantage for the nation. Many significant hints have we that, in unwritten form, this part of his will was made known to ether nations. Among heathen tribes we find the custom prevails of consecrating one-tenth of their harvests unto idol gods; and when Abraham returned from the conquest of the invaders, he gave to Melchizedek the tithe of all his spoils. Hence we may regard the law, not as exclusively Jewish, but as intended for all peoples.
III. THE METHOD OF ASSESSMENT. No official assessor was appointed. The cost of collection was nil. Each man was to act as his own assessor, and to separate, at harvest-time, God's share of corn and wine and oil. It was a transaction between each man and his God. It was Israel's privilege to live under the shield of Jehovah's arm, and therefore "ever in his Great Taskmaster's eye." The penalty for dishonesty was not immediate, nor visible. Every plan was devised to suit the convenience of the debtor. He might bring his tithe to the temple, either in kind or in coin. Jehovah was no hard Taskmaster, but a considerate and generous King. Giving to him was only another form of receiving. The absence of intermediary officers was a spiritual advantage. It brought each man into direct contact with God, and taught him to act with integrity towards the "Searcher of hearts."
IV. THE EMPLOYMENT OF GOD'S TITHE. The tithe here spoken of is not the tithe of all profits, which was due to the Levite, but a second tithe. The first tithe was regarded as an equivalent to the tribe of Levi, for Levi's share in the allotted possessions. Each man in the twelve tribes received, in the original distribution of land, one-twelfth more than his due, from the fact that Levi did not participate. In return for this increment of property, each proprietor paid to the tribe of Levi yearly one-tenth of the produce of the land. This was due as a legal right, and as a just equivalent for non-participation in the territory. But this second tithe was peculiarly the Lord's. Nevertheless, it was returned, with added blessing, into their own bosoms. Its first use was to afford a banquet for the offerers themselves. The temple was to be the scene of sacred feasting. The guests might select such viands as pleased their taste. The overshadowing presence of Jehovah would serve as a sufficient check against excess. To this banquet, in which the entire household shared, they were to invite the Levite, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. The essential idea thus embodied was philanthropy. The institution was intended to foster a spirit of benevolence and charity. The presence of the poor in their midst was to be accounted a benefit. It offered scope for the exercise of noblest dispositions. There was to be no niggardly stint in this provision, for it was at Jehovah's cost, and the occasion was to be characterized by unrestrained joy.
V. THE MORAL ADVANTAGES WHICH ENSUED.
1. It served as a practical reminder of God's proprietorship in them and in their possessions. Nothing is more easy than to forget cur obligations; and such forgetfulness is an immeasurable loss. Not an item was there in their persons, property, or enjoyments, but came from the hand of a generous God.
2. It was a potent check upon their worldly-mindedness. The propensity for selfish avarice is indigenous in human nature. Every wise man will welcome any breakwater that will withstand this mischievous tide of cupidity. Thus God, with wondrous forethought, provided a safeguard against the abuse of prosperity. He designs to make even worldly gain serve as a stepping-stone to piety. Money is nothing more than means to an end. Reconciliation with God, and personal holiness, - these are to be the aims of human life.
3. It fostered kindly dispositions among all classes of the people. Though, as the children of Abraham, they enjoyed great external privileges, they were not to despise the stranger. Yea, he too might be admitted to a full share in their blessings. Brotherly love is a reciprocal boon: both parties are blessed. The fountain of love is replenished in the very act of giving. The helped today may become the helper tomorrow. We are only stewards of God's possessions. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.