Daily Devotion for February 3, 2016
Here, Giotto represents the mystic marriage of St. Francis with Poverty. Hope and Love are the bridesmaids, angels are the witnesses, and Christ himself blesses the union. The bride's garments are patched, ragged and torn by brambles, children throw stones at her and mock her, and St. Francis looks with love upon his bride.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
A great old hymn performed by Casting Crowns. Lyrics are in the video.
Prayer for the Morning
May all I do today begin with you, O Lord. Plant dreams and hopes within my soul and revive my tired spirit: be with me today. Be at my side and walk with me; be my support, that your hand may be seen in every action I take, that your goodness may be in every word I speak, and that your spirit may inhabit my every thought. Make my thoughts, my work, and my very life blessings for your kingdom. In Christ's name I pray,
For the Clergy and All Who Minister in Christ’s Name
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in your Church: Give your grace, I humbly pray, to all who are called to any office and ministry for your people; and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of the church of all faithful people, now and until the end of days.
May I go in peace, with God and with his other children, and may we love one another as Christ taught us. May I follow the example of good men of old, and may God comfort and help me and all who believe in Him, both in this world and in the world which is to come.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
How Difficult is it to Change?
You’re just a prayer away from a change of heart.
~ Henry Brandt
Exodus 23:10-11 (ESV)
For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
[Exodus 23:12-19 are omitted here, as they are entirely repetitive of previous verses.]
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (ESV)
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.
. . .
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Notes on the Scripture
Christians have no Scriptural obligation to give one-tenth of their income to the church. One must, initially, differentiate between passages about giving to the church from passages about giving to the poor. The New Testament rules about how much to give to the church can be summarized as "as much as one has decided in his heart", given in 2 Corinthians (above). On the other hand, Christ's advice about the optimal amount to give to the poor is, basically: "go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor."Matthew 19:21.
There have been, at least historically, churches which have led their members to believe (or outright misrepresented the Bible to them) that they have a Christian obligation to give one-tenth of their income to them. This is error.
Paul does tell us to be disciplined in supporting the church. To decide, by prayer and truthful self-examination, an amount to give, and then set it aside as the first item of expenditure each week. (1 Corinthians 16)
The problem with using one-tenth even as a guideline from the Old Testament is that the obligations of giving imposed upon the Hebrews are extraordinarily complex, confusing, and possibly contradictory. Even Jewish authorities do not agree on what the Old Testament requires.
oday's Scripture — just one of many of the statements in the Pentateuch — demonstrates this. The Exodus passage requires that one-seventh of a person's agricultural yield be left for the poor. The Deuteronomy passage does require one-tenth by set aside as a tithe; but it then states that this tithe is to be taken to Jerusalem and eaten by the person who gives it! Except that, every third year, this tithe is to be stored for the use of the hungry.
There are other tithes of one-tenth, notably a tithe to the Levites (Jewish priesthood), and gifts of other amounts stated in the Old Testament, and there are complex rules about many of them; but we have diverged enough from our reading of Exodus.
In summary, we can say three things from the Scripture examined today. First, a rule of giving one-tenth of one's income to a church is the creation of that church, not the Bible. Second, we are instructed to set aside money every week for maintenance of the church as our first financial priority. And third, our guideline for giving to the poor is everything we own, at least in excess of what we need for our bare maintenance.