הביאו את כל המעשר אל בית האוצר ויהי טרף בביתי ובחנוני נא בזאת אמר יהוה צבאות אם לא אפתח לכם את ארבות השמים והריקתי לכם ברכה עד בלי די—מלאכי ג
Bring all the tenth to the treasure house and let there be a portion in my house. And do test me in this, says YHVH of hosts, if I shall not open to you+ the skies, and I shall empty to you+ blessing until no stop—Mal'achi 3:10
And then the baskets are passed around. Or a member of the congregation, having been delegated the task of a brief explanation for this part of the weekend service, explains that God wants us to give him one tenth of our incomes to support "the work of the Lord". Or the pastor sermonizes on the symbolism of the tithe—that in fact all of our money belongs to God; this tax-free, relinquished fraction is symbolic of the whole.
Let us acknowledge that countless Christian and MJ church-goers give a tenth—surely sometimes even more—of their earnings out of deep adoration of the God of heaven and earth. And they do so sacrificially, believing that our God notices each of us and will provide. In so doing they express their reliance on God and not on their finances. Perhaps many think of Markos' report of how Yeshua spoke well of a widow for donating to the temple's treasure house "out of her poverty, [giving] all that she had to live on." I am confident that God sees what such folks do and is very pleased with those individuals because of their motivation to give and the trust they display by their action.
Ecclesiastic theology connects this traditional Christian practice of handing-in a tithe to a church directly to the standard tithe mandated for 'Am Yisra'el. But from my personal bible study, this teaching is erroneously based on the biblical tithe both from a hermeneutical and practical standpoint. To be clear: this post isn't a judgment of the tithe-er, but rather a criticism of the widespread theology that determines the output of folks' readiness to offer up to God what the world generally considers livelihood. (Though of course I want to encourage folks to keep God's commands even if that means changing even well-intentioned current practice.) Moshe gave Yisra'el an altogether different description of the tithe, both in purpose and practice. I here embark on a worthy topic not only because of the direct consequences and benefits of refining our understanding of God's commands, but also because doing so opens us up to an honest way of thinking about what a physical church or messianic congregation (including their services) is: a club house. Even more, this topic gives us an opportunity to re-examine the apparent normalcy of the modern structure of our societies in terms of how we relate to the poor.