Reviving Tithing & Feasting
Harvest has been upon us for some little time. The rich hues of autumn creep slowly into the vivid lush greens of summer about now and fill our senses. Almost unconsciously our expectation builds. The gathering in, the long waited for culmination, the final reaping. Even the pagans of antiquity recognized this in their confused way. Most of them tragically counted up the works of their own hands and built altars of their own imaginations to the gods of their own depraved minds.
Even more tragically, though, most of us have lost the Christian cultural heritage; the brilliant tie between the Word of God and his nature; self evident in creation. This is the time for feasting and thanksgiving and tithing. Our fathers knew it, and so should we. But thanksgiving to them was not a non-descript emotion; the vague impression of fullness or satisfaction one feels watching an abundant field ripen or sitting before a groaning table of food. In all the symbology, we, their children, may have lost the heart of the matter. Yes, it is the time of thanksgiving and tithing, the time when we gather in and prepare; but we haven’t the first idea of what thanksgiving or tithing look like. Every generation is responsible. We are responsible to look back and look forward. And we are responsible to obey.
Our family is a new one, a frail little bark in the sea of our culture. The following thoughts on feasting and tithing are the results of our searching and clinging to the life line every man has in God’s Word. We know we are commanded to do more than survive. We are commanded to build. So here’s to the rebuilding of the Christian notion of habitual feasting and tithing.
As we gather for a feast, Scripture commands us to do so, first, in the spirit of joy, thanksgiving, and remembrance of the Lord’s provision to us as respective families. For the Christian today, unlike our old covenant fathers,this gathering is not by a special decree or precept but out of conviction that the gathering of believers in the New Testament for a communal meal testifies to a principle of feasting that is common and basic to the Scriptural depiction of Christian fellowship, community, and covenant. Examples of feasting are replete throughout Scripture as familial celebrations, ecclesiastical mandates, and civil/national obligations. The concept of feasting is basic to the Christian life.
Our gathering is in no way an implementation of particular feasts found in the Commonwealth of Israel. There are various mandated feasts in the Old Testament: the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Booths, etc. All of these feasts pointed to, and have their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. No Christian is under any obligation to maintain or perpetuate these feasts as they are set forth in Scripture. I would argue that to practice these feasts would be a denial of their specific fulfillments in Christ, and thus a denial of the sufficiency of his work.
Nevertheless, because the Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness, these Old Testament feasts do prove helpful in understanding how we ought to consider our feastings in the New Covenant. Leviticus 23:1-3 establish the Sabbath as the basic and most common feast:
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places. —Leviticus 23:1-3
We affirm that the Lord’s day and many other days ought to be remembered regularly as a day of feasting to the best of our abilities in the spirit of thanksgiving we are commanded to have in both covenants. Basic to feasting is an offering of food as set forth in Deuteronomy 16:10, 16-17:
… the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, … [you] shall give as the LORD your god blesses you.
“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.
The unassailable conclusion of the aforementioned feasts is as follows: “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” The amount and quantity of the feast is set forth as an economic statement. [ref]Gary North, Inheritance and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, 2nd ed. (Dallas, Georgia, Point Five Press, 2012), pg. 462[/ref] First, the word “tribute” means “sufficient” or “a proportionate offering.” According to C. H. Waller, this means “a free will offering, proportioned to a man’s means and prosperity.” [ref]C. H. Waller, M.A., The Fifth Book of Moses, Called Deuteronomy (Cassell & Company, 1885) pg. 97-98[/ref] Second, God blesses individuals with more or less, and stipulates that empty hands from those who have been blessed are unacceptable. The head of the family is responsible to apportion as he is able for the provision of the feast. It is an issue of self-government that the man must give what he can, and he is prohibited from appearing empty handed.
It must be recognized that the “blessing of the Lord” is the determiner of the quantity of the offering. This is key to understanding the command in the Feast of Weeks that “you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut 16:11). Rejoicing is a necessary and required element of this feast as Rushdoony recognizes:
“...Although the feast of weeks was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, it was to be a time of joy throughout. Instead of any concern or wailing over the lightness of the harvest, there was to be joy that there was a harvest. Anxiety was to give way to gratitude.
“It must be stressed that gratitude should not be confused with self-satisfaction.” [ref]R.J. Rushdoony, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy , (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 2008) pg. 243[/ref]
Man’s position before the Lord is paramount, regardless to the quantity of his offering. Man is to feast because God has blessed him. Man must declare the praise and glory of his maker and exult the work that he has done in bringing forth a harvest. The fact that there is a harvest is reason alone to celebrate the blessing and provision of God.
To view feasts in light of the ingredients themselves is to raise the works or satisfaction of the man over the purpose of the feast. The word feast can be wrongly understood to imply a certain amount or quality of food. Again, while this may be looked for in the light of God’s gracious blessings to his people when they are faithful, it is neither the point of feasting before the Lord, nor should it be expected, and certainly not mandated. R. J. Rushdoony observes:
“... tithing meant proportionate giving. The tenth of a poor man is as pleasing to God as the tenth of the rich. The principle of the tithe is stated clearly in the law: “Every man shall give as he is able” (Deut. 16:17). This same principle is restated by St. Paul in II Corinthians 8:12 as the essence of Christian giving. St. Paul wrote with respect to the collection for the poor, and he cited the principle of the tithe to collect the poor tithe from Christians. By means of proportionate giving, no undue burden was placed on anyone: the rich were not expected to do all the giving, nor was the burden left to the willing. [ref]R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 1973) pg. 54[/ref]
Here the wisdom of Scripture protects the man who can give no more from the man who is not willing to give. All covenanting men are required to participate without exception. Also, provision is made for the sojourner, widow, fatherless, levite, and poor (Deut 14:29). By the participation of covenanting men, those of lesser stature are able to participate and partake in the feasts of God. Here we see the very principle asserted by the Apostle Paul; namely that our lot is fixed by God alone:
For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? —1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV)
In conclusion we believe that feasting is more than something we do for fun or because it is the thing done. We propose that it is the habit of the Christian home, the expression of the Christian heart. The food which every man brings to the feast is governed by God alone, and it is inextricably linked to freewill giving and the tithe. The principle that heads of households must bring as they are able must be affirmed, and seen as sufficient for God’s blessing upon them.
The Christian man recognizes feasting and thanksgiving, not as a result of the harvest, but because God gave a harvest. He sees all things as the work of the Lord: The harvest comes in for God has worked. We bring our offerings to the table for God has worked. We rejoice in the provision that we have for God has worked. We set aside our time to rest and fellowship for God has worked. We rest our souls in the work of Jesus Christ our Savior for God has worked. God has worked in our fields, in our homes, at our tables, and in our hearts. The beauty of holiness, the glory in thanksgiving, the rejoicing in tithing, these are the things we cannot provide or create for ourselves. Let the mortal man turn to the hands that made him and bless the Lord.