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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tithing, Debt Cancellation and Slavery in the Old Testament; Godly Advice is an Extension of Virtue

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 13:1 - 15:23
  • Proverbs 12:5 - 7
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 13:1 - 15:23
These three chapters in Deuteronomy had many interesting topics, including tithing, debt cancellation and the release of slaves.  Rather than write a long post on just one of these topics, I think I'd like to write a little bit about each one.
Tithing, Debt Cancellation and Slavery in the Old Testament
I am always interested to learn what the bible says about tithing.  I've seen little about it so far.  Chapter 14 says that the family must take their 1/10 tithe of their crops and eat it before the Lord.  If it's too far to journey with the crops, they should be sold and then the money should be used for a great feast and celebration before the Lord.  Every third year, the money or crops should be given to the Levitites, the widows, the foreigners and the orphans.

As I've mentioned before, my tithe is a combination of donations to my church and to various Christian charities that I believe in.  I don't know enough about tithing to know if that is acceptable -- should I be giving 10% to my church, and then contribute to charities in addition to that?  This passage at least gives me reassurance that tithing can be a combination of the two, and it seems like the formula is 67% to the church, 33% to charities.  I am certain I will learn tons more about tithing, but for now I at least have something to go on!  And without looking at my budget right now, I can say that's probably close to the ratio I have going on now.  

I thought the topic on debt cancellation was interesting.  Chapter 15 tells us that debts were to be cancelled every 7th year if they were not paid back.  I think that many types of debt in the US today also have statues of limitations -- the most common being 7 years.  There are debts that are not subject to those rules, but credit cards, utility bills, etc often have limits like that imposed.  I think it's interesting how I can read about debt cancellation in Moses's time and still see a correlation to today's time.

Chapter 15 also discussed slavery.  You were to release your slaves after a period of six years, and you were supposed to send them away with a generous gift.  I hear people often refuse to even consider Christianity because the bible talks of slaves.  But I have yet to see how slavery in the bible is the same as slavery as we seem to think about it -- with an entire single population being forced into lifelong slavery.  I certainly haven't read enough of the bible to take a stance, but I can say that the things I've read so far -- such as freeing your fellow slaves with generous gifts after a six year period -- seems to fall more along the lines of indentured servants than slavery.  But please remember -- this is my opinion as of this point in time.  I am almost 1/4 through the bible -- so I still have quite a bit to read that could change my mind!

Proverbs 12:5 - 7
5  The plans of the godly are just; the advice of the wicked is treacherous.
6  The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.
7  The wicked die and disappear, but the family of the godly stands firm.
More words of wisdom to consider from Proverbs.  These words make a lot of sense -- the passages about the godly and their words and their advice makes me think of the virtue ethical theory.  In this theory (from what I remember in college), if a person was deemed to be virtuous, then by default any and all decisions that they made would automatically be considered virtuous and correct.

So I see these verses as an extension of the ethical theory of virtue -- if a person is godly, then the things they do, the plans they make, the advice they give -- is automatically just and right.  Now of course that theory has many flaws, I was just noting the similarity between these passages and that ethical theory.  It makes sense though -- if a person truly is godly, and their plans are godly, their lives are godly -- then the Lord has bestowed upon them favor, blessing and wisdom to pass along to others.  So where should you turn to when you are in need of advice or direction?  Turn to the godly person you trust! 

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