Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

Food for the last and the least

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:39)

First fruits

The Morning Prayer reading from the book of Deuteronomy on this Thanksgiving Day is set off with italics in my Bible: First Fruits and Tithes.

The people of Israel are grateful for their physical deliverance from slavery in Egypt. “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders, and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 26:8-9).

In their gratitude, they are to give the first fruits of the land as an offering to God. But the story doesn’t end with their gratitude and offering; it also includes those who might easily be overlooked.

Their offering will be shared, the people with produce and food “giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns” (Deut. 26:12).

Anyone who comes

The people following Jesus don’t realize that what he is offering goes beyond bread, goes even beyond the manna that the children of Israel ate in the desert.

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, you are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26).

“I am the bread of life,” he says. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Sounds like he’s still talking about a physical deliverance.

But he goes on to talk about the will of the Father, and to hint at a much larger purpose.

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 26:37-38).

Just like the first fruits and tithes were not only gifts and offerings to God, but also served as food for the last and least, so Jesus is bringing not just salvation for the chosen, but also for the despised and overlooked.

“Anyone who comes to me” — insider or outcast, Jew or Gentile, resident or alien, soldier or prisoner, family man or widow, mother or orphan — anyone and everyone is invited to share the feast.

Our “worthy service” is to extend the same invitation that Jesus extends. Anyone may come; everyone is to eat their fill.

Lord God of our Fathers; God of Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his Name. (BCP 372)

First fruits and offerings

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The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me. (Deut. 26:8-10)

Tithes and offerings are two different things.

The tithe, or “tenth,” is the giving of one’s first fruits back to God in gratitude. It is an objective giving — that is to say, tithing is meant to be done deliberately and first. Some people make their tithe the first check they write each month. Others set up an automatic payment. In either case, tithing is a deliberate, routine practice.

Offerings, on the other hand, are more subjective. Paul spends a fair amount of time in his letters talking about the offering he is taking up for the benefit of the church in Jerusalem, and we will read one such appeal tomorrow:

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:7-8)

Offerings are free gifts, given generously as specific needs arise, and given out of our abundance.

Like most Americans, I’m pretty good at offerings. I’m ready to contribute when asked, whether it’s through a neighbor’s foundation or through Episcopal Relief and Development, or by donating to Goodwill or spending time to help with a fundraising event. When asked, I tend to rise to the occasion, and I think most people do, too.

Where I do not do well at all is in tithing — the objective offering of my money to God.

I have only tithed for brief periods in my life, and while I can easily offer the first fruits of my time (rising early for the last 20 years to say Morning Prayer, for example), I struggle to make the same routine offering of my money.

Let the lessons today sit with you as you think about your own relationship with money and with God.

How do you make routine giving a habit? How do you respond with offerings for specific needs? How might God’s generosity draw from your abundance in a new way?

An eternal weight of glory

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So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)