Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 30, 1963
NUMBER 5, PAGE 7b,11c

Benevolence Under The Law

Steve Hudgins

To the Romans Paul wrote, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Rom. 15:4) Is it not possible that in our present studies and discussions of benevolence we might profit by a consideration of this subject as practiced aforetime — under the law?

The Israelite had no reason to think that two or three percent nor even ten percent of his income or increase was sufficient for the supporting of the teaching of God's word and the supplying of all benevolent needs. The tithe commanded of the Israelite was for the support of the priests and Levites and there is no indication that any part of this went for benevolence, temple construction nor any other work. (Num. 18:21-28; Neh. 12:44; Era. 1:3,4) In addition to the tithe the Israelite was also to give the firstlings of his beasts. (Lev. 27:26, 27), the first fruits of his trees (Lev. 19:23-25), and offer burnt, meat, peace, sin, trespass and free will offerings. (Lev. 1-7)

Because no part of the tithe was allotted to the needy, let us not think for a moment that God overlooked the needs of the poor and made no provision for them. He provided well for the poor — Israelites and strangers — fatherless and widows. Individuals were to provide these needs and this in addition to their supporting the teaching of the word. The Israelite was instructed to save the corners of his field, the gleanings of his harvest and his vineyard for the poor and the stranger, the fatherless and widow. (Lev. 19: 9, 10; Deut. 24:19-22) The land was to rest the seventh year and that which grew of itself was reserved for the poor Israelites and what they left for the beasts. The poor also were to have the fruit of the vineyard and the oliveyard. (Lev. 25:3-5; Ex. 23: 10, 11)

In addition to this the Israelite was to lend generously to his poor brethren and the needy of his land. (Deut. 15:7-11) He was not permitted to charge his brother interest (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-38) and was to release his brother and neighbor from any debt due him the seventh year. (Deut. 15:1,2) Every third year a tithe was to be laid up in his gates for the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless and widow. (Deut. 14:28, 29; 28:12) (Josephus said this was a third tithe — Book IV, chapter 8:22.) As a matter of hospitality a man was allowed to eat his fill of his neighbor's vineyard and pluck the ears of his standing corn. (Deut. 23:24, 25)

We can thus see that much emphasis was placed on the individual and much was required of him under the law (seemingly all benevolence). The faithful Israelite did not suffer for his liberality and generosity because God promised to bless those who kept these commands. (Deut. 14:29; 15:10) In view of this and the plainness of such scriptures as 1 Tim. 5:4, 8, 18; Jas. 1:27; Gal. 8:10, does not God still emphasize individual action in helping those in need? Surely He is able and will bless His faithful children today who respect His word, support His cause and meet their own responsibilities. (2 Cor. 9:8-8)

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