Tag Archives: Leviticus 27

A Worthwhile Reminder

Nothing that a person owns that has been devoted to destruction for the Lord, be it human or animal, or inherited landholding, may be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord.
Leviticus 27:28 (NRSV)

Today we wind down our journey through the ancient laws of Leviticus. The final chapter is the ancient Hebrews’ rules as it related to charitable giving above and beyond the regular sacrifices already covered. The ancient Hebrews could dedicate items, even servants or children, to God’s work at the tabernacle (the giant tent which served as nomadic temple) and later the temple that took its place.

For example, in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, Hannah gives birth to little Samuel and dedicates the boy to the Lord. She gives Samuel to the temple for the work of the Lord. In ancient days this would have been a precious gift, not only from an emotional point-of-view, but also from a financial standpoint. The culture of that day attached great worth to boys as they would grow to become warriors, hunters, merchants, and providers. Hannah could have considered Samuel to be security for her retirement, a son who would care for her and provide for her in her old age. Yet she gave her “one and only son” to God.

So, let’s say that a few years later Hannah’s husband kicks the bucket and leaves her destitute. She has second thoughts about giving Samuel to the work of the temple and returns with “givers remorse.” She asks for the boy back. According to the code of Levitical law in today’s chapter, such a “redemption” could be made. Depending on Samuel’s age at the time of redemption, Hannah would have to pay the redemption fee. In many cases, depending on what gift was being redeemed, a 20 percent redemption tax was added.

Then there were items that could never be redeemed. If a foreign idol had been taken as plunder during a battle of conquest, that idol was “devoted to destruction” and had to be destroyed. The person who plundered it had to give it to the priests to be destroyed and couldn’t redeem it. That’s why, in the story of Joshua, a man named Achan got into such trouble. He took plundered idols for himself and didn’t give them over for destruction. That was “against the law” and Achan paid the penalty for it.

This morning my mind is mulling over many things. I’m kind of glad this journey through Leviticus is over. It’s definitely not “feel good” devotional material that pumps my heart full of inspiration at the start of the day. I confess I’m ready to move on. At the same time, I’m thankful for the layers of depth that Leviticus provides to other events and sections of God’s Message. The stories of Samuel, and of Achan, have new layers of understanding for me now.

As I think about summing things up, Leviticus reminds me that God is a God of order, despite our human penchant for making a chaotic mess of life and creation. Leviticus beckons me to seek the Creator’s natural order when life and relationships are in chaos. And, for me, that’s a worthwhile reminder.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 27

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
Image by epSos.de via Flickr

“A tenth of the land’s produce, whether grain from the ground or fruit from the trees, is God’s. It is holy to God.” Leviticus 27:30 (MSG)

When I was small, I was taught to give God ten percent of what I made in an offering. I received a box of envelopes from the church just to be a weekly reminder to give a portion of my newspaper route and lawn mowing income back to God. When my daughters were young, I taught them the principle of giving ten percent to God, putting ten percent in savings and learning to budget and live on eighty percent.

It’s funny to think that there are still pieces of our lives, our faith, and our culture that are still rooted in Levitical laws given by Moses 3500 years ago. There is, of course, no magic to giving the ten percent, first-fruits “tithe” of income to God. In fact, Jesus upped the ante on a regular basis, urging followers give everything to God. Offering a portion of our income back to God is spiritually profitable on a number of levels. It reminds us that what we “own” really belongs to God, it provides for the well-being and needs of those less fortunate, and it reduces our propensity to be self-centered and materialistic.

Today, I’m thankful that the principle of giving was taught to me as a kid, and I’m renewing my commitment to, as Psalm 112 says, “be generous and lend freely…to scatter abroad my gifts to the poor.”

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