“Show me the money!” These famous words from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire quickly became part of the lexicon of pop culture. When people say, “Show me the money,” either want to know how much they will be paid for doing something, or they want to see why something is valuable enough to pay top dollar for it.
Today’s taste of Torah broadly deals with the subject of material provision and material giving. However it’s not a matter of “Show me the money,” it’s a matter of “Show me your heart!” The passage is Leviticus 27:30, and 34. It reads: 30 “Every tenth of the land’s produce, grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. 34 These are the commands the Lord gave Moses for the Israelites on Mount Sinai.
Here’s the big-picture context: In the previous chapter, Leviticus 26, there’s a listing of the blessings and curses associated with Israel’s obedience and disobedience toward the requirements of the Mosaic covenant. These were God’s vows to His people in the sense of clearing stating up front His promises both positively and negatively.
In Leviticus 27 the focus is on the vows that God’s people were to honor as part of their covenantal relationship with the LORD. It deals with the specifics of what human faithfulness in this historical setting needed to look like. And what we see in this closing section of Leviticus is that all that the land produced, whether seeds or fruit; one tenth was reserved for the LORD (v. 30). God gave these commands, along with many others, to the Israelites through Moses at Mount Sinai (v. 34) so that they would dwell at peace with Him in the Land. In this theocratic agrarian culture and society, giving back to the LORD ten percent of one’s harvest was intended to be an expression of consecration. It was intended to be a worshipful recognition and designation of what rightfully belonged to Him. In fact, there were actually three tithes associated with the Mosaic Law. Ten percent was given to the Levites to maintain the Temple worship (Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 14:27). Ten percent of the remaining ninety percent was to be donated to maintain the festivals and sacrifices of the LORD (Deut. 12:5-7, 10-19; 14:22-26). And ten percent was collected every third year for the poor (Deut. 14:28-29). So the total actual tithe under the Law was not ten percent but closer to twenty three percent.
Today however, God has given very different directions to guide the giving of believers living under the New Covenant (cf. 1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor 8—9; Phil. 4). He has not specified a percentage that His people must give. He wants us to give joyfully, sacrificially, and proportionately to the degree He has materially blessed us. Teaching believers to give as God instructed the Israelites living under the Old Covenant often has the effect of decreasing giving instead of increasing giving! Many believers erroneously think that when they have given 10 percent they have satisfied God by fulfilling their obligation. But such thinking reflects an underlying desire for a spirituality and mode of worship that can be numerically quantified and micromanaged. This is why we gravitate towards rules rather than relationship.
The truth of the matter is God owns all things. He is the creator, sustainer, and giver of everything. And so when we give, we’re simply returning a portion of that which already belongs to Him anyway. For the believer, giving is reflective of one’s love for God (cf. Matt. 6:19-21), and it’s an expression of one’s faith in God (cf. Jam. 2:15-17). This is why it’s not about, “Show me the money.” It’s about, “Show me your heart!”