There are parts of the Bible that we tend not to read often, if ever. When we do we hurry through—a sense of duty compels us because, after all, it is the Word of the Lord, but we subconsciously believe there is little to be learned from these passages. This duty often involves portions of the Old Testament. Of course, we love the Psalms, and probably the Proverbs. And if we are going through hard times, Job is a "go-to" book.
The book of Deuteronomy hardly qualifies as a place where we linger.
As it happens, I am reading through Deuteronomy as part of my devotional pattern. As it happens I am also working on a study in Deuteronomy. I say "as it happens" but you know that nothing happens by accident. I believe that the Old Testament is as important to us as Christians today as it was to the Hebrews of its era. Deuteronomy is a series of sermons delivered by Moses to Israel just before they entered the promised land. They were God's holy nation and he wanted to remind them of what a holy nation looks and lives like before an unholy world. Sounds remarkably like what God wants of us as His holy nation living on this side of the cross, doesn't it? Moses gave Israel specific examples of what it meant for them to love God and love their neighbours. This was just what Jesus told us in the two great commandments He gave in Mark 12:28-31—He quoted these from the Old Testament!
As I have been reading through the book, I have been trying to interpret what Moses tells the Israelites in the context of the 21st century in which I live. Several verses I read this morning struck me. In Deuteronomy 24:19-22 it says: "When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this." This instruction is similar to what Moses writes in Leviticus 19 and 23 when he tells the Israelites not to reap the corners of their fields but leave that food for those who have no fields and no means of feeding themselves.
In addition to this, Deuteronomy 26:12-15 talks about tithes. A tenth of the produce collected in the third year of harvest, designated the "year of the tithe" was to be given to "the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow,"
This was loving your neighbour. How do I do that in a similar fashion? It would be easy for me to skip over this passage. I have no fields, no sheaves, no olives, no grapes. True, I occasionally give to the Food Bank and I provide meals for the homeless once in a while.. But it isn't just at Christmas and Thanksgiving that people have to eat—the usual times when someone reminds me of the needs of poor.
A thought came to mind as it relates to Moses' statement on tithing. How about I tithe every time I go to the grocery store? In other words, every time I shop at the market or at the drug store, I will buy an item (or two) that I will set aside in a box or bag to take to the Food Bank or local shelter. I will tithe my groceries, buying an item I would eat that I will give to someone else to eat. Every time I go into the drug store I will buy that extra toothbrush or stick of deodorant so someone else can stay healthy. Shopping day will become a constant reminder to look after "the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow."
James 1:27 tells us, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widow in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
I am certain that this idea is not original to me, but I was struck by how relevant the Old Testament is if I look for that relevance.
Several years ago I developed a workshop on how to tithe time. All believers know about the importance of tithing money in support of the ministry of the local church and other para-church agencies. We don't do as well when it comes to tithing our time in seeking and serving the Lord. And to my shame, I at least, haven't done well when it comes to tithing my goods to help those who are less fortunate. Hopefully that will now change. And I challenge you to do the same.