Sometimes it’s challenging for us to read biblical passages about the law and its nuances. The Ten Commandments tell us not to covet or steal or murder and so on, and we could probably think of many actions and behaviors that fall under those ten laws (see Exodus 20). But the first five books of the Bible are called the “Law” for a reason; while they contain stories of the faith, many of the passages concern God’s laws to help humans have safe, healthy, generous lives on the earth.
This Deuteronomy passage is no different. There is the general command, “you shall not covet” (Ex 20:17), and here God elaborates on ways not to covet what others have or be greedy with what we have. “Give generously” is a lovely instruction, but we humans often need clearer, firmer parameters for what this actually looks like.
So through Moses, God tells the people how to set aside a portion of their material goods, rejoice over it and enjoy it in the Lord’s presence, and share it with others who have no portion of their own. With these rules, God shows that giving generously doesn’t mean going in need yourself. It means enjoying the blessings of God that come about through your labors, thanking God for them, and sharing them with people who have little.
Generosity is part of being in relationship with God. Any person who is able to be generous and yet chooses to withhold such gifts is probably not on great terms with God. After all, God’s laws are laws, not suggestions.
• Were you surprised that God tells the people to enjoy their tithe in God’s presence rather than sacrificing it on the altar or, as we might do, dropping it in the offering plate?
• How hard is it for you to be generous to people who don’t have much, especially when you worked to earn your material goods and you may view them as lazy or indifferent?
• What can you do to keep a spirit of generosity and let God handle the results?
• How does the Bible elaborate on other Ten Commandments with additional rules and stories?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.
For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.