One of the things that most struck me from Deuteronomy 14 was the family nature of giving. The household went together to the tabernacle/temple to make their offering. The family all saw what was being given.
Imagine little Joseph. The harvest is in. And dad starts measuring everything and setting a tenth of it to one side in baskets. There’s a tenth of the corn. A tenth of the oil in jars. A tenth of the new wine in jars. And the firstborn animals set aside in a pen apart from the others. Then dad and mum begin loading the family up with the produce they have set aside before as a family you set out for the tabernacle or temple. Once there you feast and celebrate the generous goodness of God, before leaving the rest for the Levites.
Now Jospeh is a curious little chap and he and his brothers and sisters wonder why, so they ask dad and dad explains because God has saved us, we are his people, everything we have is his. We give a tenth back to him every year because we love him and trust he will provide for us next year.
The next year. Joseph sees dad set aside the tenth, and this year it’s much bigger. There is no way we’re carrying this lot is there, that’ll be lots of trips! But instead dad takes it and sells it and they travel to the tabernacle/temple with a bag full of silver and there they buy grain and wine and animals and feast and make their offering.
The next year is different. They still set aside a tenth. But this year they don’t travel far, just into town and leave it at the storehouse. But Joseph and his sisters miss the feast at the tabernacle/temple, until mum explains that this is their year for providing for the Levites and those in need in their community just as God provides for them.
Giving and the theology behind it was woven into the routine and rhythms of family life in Israel. But is it for us? Have we privatised and individualised our giving so that our families have no idea what we give and there are no opportunities for those kinds of conversations. It’s one of the draw backs of BACs and Standing Orders there is no visible sign of our giving. I’m not suggesting we ditch them and go back to offering bags – I think our treasurer may hate me if I did that. But I do think as families we need to think about how we discuss our giving as families. How do we help our children see and be able to ask those kinds of questions?
It matters because we want our children as they grow up to see what following Jesus looks like, including in terms of giving. I wonder if giving is decreasing from generation to generation (which I think it is though I only have a hunch on that and no evidence) precisely because we rarely model such giving in a way that invites questions and teaches routines and rhythms.