In the Old Testament, the first tithe was strictly for the support of the priests and Levites (Lev. 27:30-34; Num. 18:19-28). The second tithe provided either for the sacred feasts (Lev. 23), or charity for the orphans, the poor, and “strangers” that lived among the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 14:23, 29; 16:11-14).
The provisions among Israel for the needy encouraged the practice of true religion. The Levites, who were without territory (Deut. 12:12) lived in cities of their own, dispersed throughout the different tribes. So, they were requested to participate in these sacred feasts (Deut. 12:18).
Also, the fatherless and widows were invited to these celebrations (Deut. 16:11, 14; 24:17, 19; 26:12). A generous spirit was to be shown to those in need (Deut. 12:7, 12, 18; 14:29). The efforts were to bring gladness and happiness to both the giver and the receiver. This was the will of God to distribute cheer and joy among His children especially the needy.
In addition, God gave other laws for assisting the needy (Lev. 19:9, 10; 23:22). Those who didn’t own a land were given the privilege of gleaning from the fields, farms and the orchards. The landowner was to spare the gleanings, and thus help the poor and provide for their needs, and at the same time could bless his own heart with God’s favor (Prov. 11:24). These laws were applicable the first 6 years of the 7-year cycle during which harvests were grown.
In the New Testament, the apostle James voiced the same principle for the Christian church. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
The apostle shows that the outward proof of a true religion goes along with what is in the heart (Micah 6:8). True religion teaches us to do everything as if it was for God. The orphans, the poor, and the widows need also the comfort and love of God’s people, not only their financial help.
In His service,
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