Scripture: At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 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. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
I'm rather surprised just now. I didn't know there was such a specific instruction for tithing garden produce, and that for two of every three years, the ones producing this could eat from the tithes themselves. Somehow I thought the whole tithe was to be given away continually.
It does not at all seem greedy of God to ask for the tithe of the third year, when He has given us that of the first two years to eat ourselves. But to mark it as a tithe each year gets us into the habit of separating out that amount. Otherwise, we might completely forget to give it away in the third year.
Of course, at this point I recall what Jesus said in another passage in the New Testament, when He reproved the Pharisees, for carefully tithing their dill and mint, but forgetting the more important issues. (Can you visualize them counting out their dill seeds; one for you, nine for me?)
The previous five verses from our Deuteronomy Scripture explain that the tithe of the first two years is to be eaten before the Lord at the place chosen for His dwelling place, or, if too far to carry, it can be converted to cash to take to that place of worship. In that case, this tithe is really intended for the celebrations of worship, not for ordinary daily eating. So the tithe is meant for the LORD, whether we enjoy it, or the poor people do.
I don't want to draw sharp distinctions where God did not intend any, but I am trying to imagine how I should do this.
If I were to tithe a tenth of my garden produce, would that mean that I set aside the first of every ten vegetables to worship God with, or to give away to the needy?
Or, just a moment. There are other passages in this same chapter, (Deuteronomy 14), that instruct the people to give the tenth animal or produce. So we are allowed to enjoy the first 9.
We want to remember though, that these tithing instructions from God were to ensure that the Levites, who served in the temple, and the poor and needy would be looked after. In the New Testament, the teaching is to give generously and to give it cheerfully. When we have the Holy Spirit living in us, upon entering into salvation through Christ's finished work on the cross for our redemption and eternal life, we have the mind of Christ and are no longer bound to these... more or less, bare minimum rules. Instead we now give gladly, and as much as we can.
But's turn to this thought of tithing garden produce again. There may be some ideas for setting myself goals for sharing the vegetables that come from my garden. Perhaps you want to think this through too.
Personally, I think I have been giving away to friends and others more than a tithe. The 9/10s would leave me with more than I can use as a single person.! This season is about over, so I will try to remember next summer to do a bit of counting, to see how much a tenth really is, but I will continue to give away generously, and perhaps seek out those in need, especially.
Certainly, I can testify that there is joy in sharing my garden produce with my neighbours and friends. That is why I like to use my whole backyard as a garden.
What is your experience? How do you feel about tithing garden produce?
Or do you just share liberally - never mind proportions?
That sharing liberally is closest to God's intention, I think. In fact, as I look at that passage in the Bible again, it all comes out very simple and easy to follow. It looks like this:
In the beginning, when starting a garden, we should eat the first harvests with thanksgiving and worship before God. By about the third year, when it starts producing well, we should make a more concerted effort to share the produce with God's servants (especially if they serve Him in a full-time manner, and don't have time for a garden), and with the poor around us. If we insist on counting out what's for us and what's for giving away, we don't get it yet!