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Passage: Deuteronomy 14-16

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Yujin wrote,

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed (Deuteronomy 15:1-2).

Every seven years debtors were to be released from their debts. One might wonder if this were not subject to abuse. Couldn't the debter just hold out in paying until the seventh year and get off without paying anything? I suppose they could, but if they did this, who would ever loan money to them again? 

This is perhaps the basis of our modern bankruptcy laws. People can declare bankruptcy and not have to pay their debts and even find legal protection against those that would still try to collect the money. Why wouldn't more people do this? Well, it would really damage their credit rating, which would prevent them from easily obtaining any future loans, especially from lenders that rely on credit history to determine credit worthiness. Now, some like Donald Trump, appear to have found some loophole around this, so that he can repeatedly declare bankruptcy without much impact to his credit standing. I know others that have done this through ghost corporations, and while it may be legal, it seems to me unethical. 

How we handle loans, debts, collection, and the forgiveness of debts reflect not only our understanding of credit but also the integrity of our character. With respect to loaning to others, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: 

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42).

Does this mean that Christians should always give anything that is sought from them? I don't think so. The context suggests that rather than a specific ordinance, Jesus sought to teach a general principle. In contrast to retributive justice ("eye for an eye..."), Jesus encouraged His disciples to seek instead to win the wicked over by unexpected and overflowing kindness and generosity. This goes hand in hand with Paul's instruction,

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).

Thus, Jesus elevates the whole matter of loans and debts to the level of Christian witness. A Christian should look beyond the immediate concern for being paid what is due and consider what kind of witness is achieved in giving and even forgiving debt. Related to this, Paul addresses the matter of lawsuits, arguing,

Is it so,that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:5-7).

On the other side, since Christians are not only lenders but also debtors, Paul counsels,

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another (Romans 12:7-8).

Thus, there is nothing more honorable about being a debtor over being a creditor. Both are accountable to God as stewards of God's provision. In the OT, the Bible calls all debtors "slaves" because they are, in God's sight, enslaved to their lenders (Proverbs 22:7; cf. Proverbs 6:1-5). While Christian creditors are urged to consider forgiving debts owed to them, Christian debtors are commanded to pay what they owe.

I have forgiven a number of debts in my life. Even so, my heart is burdened in part because I loaned money to Christians, some of whom repeatedly promised to repay and never did while others somehow felt it was my Christian duty to have given them money and were angry that I did not give them more. What is more, even when they came into money, they still did not repay what they owed. 

When I witness this kind of attitude, I recognize that people in distress can justify all kinds of things. Even so, while I do not demand repayment from any of these people, my heart would rejoice, for their sake, if even one of them repaid their loan.

Another friend of mine boasted to me of how he was able to stick it to the credit card companies by negotiating to pay only 50 cents on the dollar of what he owed to them. He told me that even though he had the money to pay off his debt, he deliberately held off so that he would have greater negotiating advantage.

He thought I would be impressed, but I was more ashamed of him. As a Christian brother I rebuked him, because it was not right not to pay what we owe. Then he indicated to me how the credit card company had "unjustly" tried to extort a high interest and fees from him. But I replied to him that even if this were so, it did not justify his revenge. And I challenged him further because I presumed that he must have agreed to such an arrangement of payment and fees with them when he first sought credit from them.

Friends, we must stop thinking as the world thinks. We lose our spiritual saltiness this way. Rather than being the conscience and moral compass for the world as a people living by the Bible, we may find ourselves setting our standards by this world system, which God says is both evil and passing away.


Passage: Deuteronomy 14-16

On Sunday, March 13, 2011, Stephen wrote,

Dear brothers and sisters!
 
In the beginning of chapter 15, Moses says, "there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you."  However, at the end of the immediately-following paragraph, we read what Moses foresaw coming - the grim reality that would come upon the people in the Promised land where theocracy was intended by God.  He says, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."  God's practical solution for breaking possible perpetual cycle of one's poverty from generation to generation is the Sabbath year when everything goes back to ground zero.  However, even though God's law was holy and perfect for their own wealth and health, God's intended outcome was at the mercy of the obedience of the Israelites.  So what happened?  Of course they failed!!  The reason for the failure was their insatiable greed to amass stuff to themselves as if they would live here and be able to keep stuff with them forever!!  Just as the Israelites failed in God's expectation, we are no different from them when it comes to our materialistic possessions.  Even though we know the fact that everything is from Him, we never fail to claim an ownership of stuff that is around us.  But if we truly believe that nothing belongs to us and we are just a steward over what He entrusted us with,  act of sharing God's blessings with other brothers and sisters wouldn't be such a difficult task.  Isn't Jesus Himself our portion anyway? Let us pray fervently regarding this so that people will may know God amongst us through our obedience.
 
In Christ,
 
Stephen
 


Passage: Deuteronomy 14-16

On Sunday, March 13, 2011 (Last Updated on 3/13/2012), Unmi wrote,

From reading the Scriptures so far, there seems to be 3 different tithes; the levitical tithe, the festival tithe and the tithe for the poor.

The first tithe is in Leviticus 27:30 “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. According to Numbers 18:21, the Lord gave this tithe to the Levites.I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.  Then in Numbers 18:25-28, the Lord instructs the Levites to give a tenth of their tithe to the priest. The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD’s portion to Aaron the priest.

The second tithe is in Deut 14:22-23  Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. This tithe was to be brought to the 3 annual festivals that are mentioned in Deut 16, these three festivals required pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The offerings were used and consumed during the festivals.

The third tithe is in Deut 14:28-29 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 foreigners, 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. This was a tenth given every 3 years for those who were needy among them.

So in total the Israelites were required to give 20% every 1st and 2nd year and 30% every 3rd year. However, it seems the the Israelites did not keep up with their tithing.  In Malachi 3:8-12, God accuses them of robbing Him by withholding the tithes and offerings. Most modern day Christian do no fully understand the Mosaic laws with regard to tithing.  Most believe it was 10%, but in reality it was much higher. 

Now the question is whether or not we as Christians are obligated to pay the tithes as required by the Mosaic Law.  Of course, the question isn't about tithing or not, but about the entire Mosaic Law itself.  Are we under the Mosaic Law? The Lord said to Jeremiah that He will make a "new covenant" with the people because they have broken the old (Mosaic) covenant.
 
Jeremiah 31:31-32
 31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
   “when I will make a
new covenant
with the people of Israel
   and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
   though I was a husband to them,”
            declares the LORD.

The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse in Jeremiah and says that "By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:13). For the New Testament saints, we are no longer under the
Mosaic covenant, the new covenant has made the first one obsolete.  Therefore the requirements of the Mosaic Law is also obsolete.
 
Does that mean Christians are no longer obligated to pay the tithe? YES! We are no longer under this legalistic requirement. Does that mean Christians shouldn't pay anything?  NO! How much each individual should give to the Lord and the work of the local church is a spiritual matter, not a legalistic matter that is "set in stone". The offerings we give should be "in keeping with your income" (1 Corinthians 16:2) and "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)  Prior to my understanding of this, I would ask questions like "Should I tithe from pre-tax income or after-tax income?" This question is obsolete if the above concept is understood.
 
Whether in the OT or the NT, we see God's heart going up to the poor and needy. Since God cares for them, should not our heart also go out to them as well. Paul quoted from Psalm 112:9 “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever." Paul tells us that "You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:11-15)
 
As a confession of our faith, let us be generous so that the name of God may be praised by ALL! We thank you Lord because everything we have is Yours and our increase comes from You alone.  Help us to be faithful stewards as You allow us to participate in the work of advancing Your Kingdom! To God be all the GLORY!
 

Passage: Deuteronomy 14-16

On Sunday, March 7, 2010, Matt wrote,

In chapter 14 it talks about taking care of the poor.  Verses 28 & 29 read, "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."

In biblical times and even the not so distant past it was the families and communities responsibility to take care of the poor, homeless and needy.  There were no government programs or homeless shelters.  We see these resources today as a good thing but they may be the very thing that keeps us from living a lifestyle of service to others in need.  Now don't get me wrong there are a lot of good in them too.  These programs can address the problems but some may only effectively be addressing the symptoms.  However, each time we hear of a group of people like you and me taking steps to help someone in need it seems to be much more impactful than any of these current day organized assistance centers.  I can't help but think God's power is at work when we allow ourselves to be used.

Yujin comments...Amen, brother Matt! What a powerful social commentary from the Scriptures! It was families that educated their children. It was individuals that took care of the poor. Now we tend to relegate these important responsibilities to the government. Let us reclaim our responsibilities, which are affirmed in the NT as in the OT.