Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tithing: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 14 with poem by Kahlil Gibran, On Giving

Daily Readings
Psalm 106:19-48, Numbers 20, Deuteronomy 14, Matthew 19

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 14

Three seemingly disparate subjects are addressed in Deuteronomy 14, prohibition of mutilation when grieving, dietary guidelines and tithing. Lacerating one’s flesh and cutting one’s hair as a natural part of grieving was forbidden on the grounds that Israelites are the children of God, and children of God have so much to be thankful for that even the appearance of abasing themselves need be avoided.

Jewish dietary laws have ever been scoffed at, ignored, and trivialized by Gentiles and Christians. However, they became a part of Jewish religious identity, not because they made sense, but because the LORD God asked it. Gerhard von Rad has a thoughtful comment on them, “the reader of today must from the outset form a clear idea in his mind on two points when framing an opinion on subjects of this kind. He must not suspect them of being ‘external matters’ which obstruct genuine piety rather than serve it. Such religious observances are deeply rooted in a conception of wholeness, according to which external things take place within as well, and what is within expresses itself in concrete externals. Secondly he must as far as possible refrain from asking the questions which spring so readily to our lips about the ‘meaning’ of the symbolism and of the observances. Observances keep themselves astonishingly unaltered, whilst the spiritual associations to which at any given time they owe their significance are subject to frequent change [496:100].

Tithing itself is a response to God that comes out of one’s commitment to God. It reflects both duty and the need to learn to give. Both ought to be valued, and certainly the loyalty and the generosity of God are marvelous examples of both. Jesus gave so fully that his life was a large part of the gift. He gave until nothing was left to give and at that point the gift of his life kept right on giving. He tithed not a part, but the principle. Privilege is the keynote of tithing. It is a privilege to give to God and those God loves, and with the privilege comes identification.

On Giving
from “The Prophet”
Kahlil Gibran,1883-1931

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the
trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for
recognition and their hidden desire makes their gift unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give
with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles
upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
and to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’. 407:1197

Collect for the Day
God our Father, remembering your covenant you graciously pardoned those who rebelled against you. Grant that where sin abounds, grace may abound more, through Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:852:106 psalm prayer]


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