why celebrate shavuot?
Shavuot Reminds Us To Tithe
As we learned last time, Shavuot was a celebration of the firstfruits of the harvest. That meant every Jewish person was required to bring a portion – or tithe – of their first crop as an offering to the Lord.
Many Christian pastors and speakers teach that the Bible says to give 1/10 of every paycheck to your church. For example, during my time working at a church, a coworker admonished me privately, then publicly on Facebook, that a tithe was 1/10 of our paycheck to our church. According to her, it is not for us to choose where that tithe goes specifically. So, as an example, she would think it was wrong to give money to the International Relief Efforts Ministry, because “you need to let the church leaders decide where your money goes.” This was purely conjecture on her part, because she never gave me biblical backing for her argument. She became adamant towards me about this issue because I had joked that a donation of items to our Bible Bucks program for our Teen Ministries was my “tithe” for the month. What she didn’t realize was (1) I was spending $200+ a month for that donation, which at the time was the majority of my paychecks, and (2) the church couldn’t afford to keep up the demand for items, so it was unable to restock the program as needed. To basically get my coworker to shut up, the church leadership expanded its budget for the program and reimbursed me for (some of) my donations. They told me privately that they did not agree with her (non-biblical) aggressive stance, but they did appreciate my donations and did not see anything wrong with calling it my “tithe.”
Now, why was this person’s argument not biblical? According to the Old Testament, a tithe was:
- Of the land, including seed and fruit. (Leviticus 27:30)
- Grain, new wine or oil, honey, and the firstborn of a person’s herd and flock. (Deuteronomy 12:17, 14:23; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37, 13:5-12)
- All the produce from what a person sowed, which came out of the field every year. (Deuteronomy 14:22)
See? No money mentioned.
Now, where did those tithes go? All of it went to the Levitical priests, who made their income completely off of these tithes (Numbers 18:21-28; Nehemiah 10:37-38). Remember, the tithes were not money! This meant that the priests ate and drank from produce completely taken by the tithes. Deuteronomy 26:12 also tells us that a portion of the tithes went to orphans and widows.
What about the New Testament? The early Christians donated somewhat differently than Old Testament times. In the OT era, most Jews were farmers. Now, with metropolis cities and a high demand for other kinds of jobs, many Jews had picked up trades apart from farming. At this point, Christians did donate money. However, they did not follow the 1/10 law that we use today. For example:
- Jesus told His disciples that a poor widow’s donation to the temple was worth more than anyone else’s, because “they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:44)
- In Acts 4:32-37, Luke tells us that the early Christians were not possessive, but considered everything common property to the church. Many people were selling their homes and lands, then bringing the entire money from those sales to be distributed among the needy. For example, Barnabas, who later partnered with Paul for his missionary journeys, sold a tract of land and “brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
- In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Paul instructs the Corinthians to take a fiscal offering on Sundays. Then, Paul would come to collect that offering and send the money to wherever and whomever the Corinthians wanted to donate the money to.
Ok, ok – but what about that 1/10 rule? …Sorry, couldn’t find it. This is the bare minimum standard that pastors preach, but it is not in the Bible anywhere. In actuality, we see above that Jesus taught His disciples to have a generous, willing heart. Whether that was everything you have or just a portion. Whether that was money or food or items. Look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 in the New Living Translation (emphasis added):
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
What about deciding where your tithe goes? Is it up to us, or is it up to the church leaders? I could not find any passages in Scripture that talk about this issue. In the Old Testament, the Israelites gave their firstfruits to the Levitical priests, since that was the priests’ “income” – or sustenance to survive. In the New Testament, the Christians gave the money to the apostles to give to needy families. Remember that official “ministries” like Children’s Ministries or Women’s Ministries are modern concepts. In the past, whole families sat together for church, and donations were given to the pastor and the needy in the community. It is only within the last couple of decades that we now have ministries with their own set of financial needs.
With all of that to say, you can tithe to the Lord as the Holy Spirit leads you. This includes:
- A tithe of your time, like spending time in His Word, serving at a homeless shelter, or serving in a ministry
- A tithe of your resources, like donating clothes and blankets to a shelter, donating fruits and vegetables from your garden to the hungry, etc.
- And of course, a tithe of your paycheck, as much or as little as you can afford to give with a “cheerful” and “generous” spirit as Paul instructed earlier
Shavuot was a time set aside to celebrate and tithe. Make Wednesday a moment to ask yourself: Have I been tithing unto the Lord? How have I been tithing? Could I afford to give more of my time, resources, or money?
Shavuot Reminds Us To Love God’s Word
As mentioned in our last post, there is no biblical connection between Shavuot and the giving of the Law in Exodus 19-20. Only within the last couple of centuries have Rabbis taught that Shavuot commemorates the time the Lord gave us the Law. However, as Christians, we see that Acts 2 reflects and parallels Exodus 19-20. Thus, Shavuot is also a time to remind us to love God’s Word, and rejoice that we are no longer under the Law!
In Acts 9, Peter is given a vision from God that unclean animals are now considered clean to eat. This also meant that Gentiles could recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit for the first time. This was because Jesus’ sacrifice freed us from the Old Testament Law!Look at Romans 6 in the New Living Translation (emphasis added):
Look at Romans 6 in the New Living Translation (emphasis added):
Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
According to Jewish Rabbis, the “first Shavuot” gave us the Law. Shavuot, or Pentecost, in Acts 2 freed us from the Law. Thus, take a moment on Wednesday to thank the Lord for freeing you from the clutches of sin, guilt, and shame, and letting you have freedom in His grace!
This can also be an opportunity to have a renewed love for God’s Word. Maybe you feel like the Bible is boring, or you never know what to read. (Trust us, we get it – click here for why) But God’s Word (1) teaches us who the Lord is, (2) tells us what He did for us, and (3) transforms us to make us more like Him! How can you say you love the Lord and Jesus Christ, when you never take the time to know more about Him???
Make Wednesday a day to commit to studying and knowing God’s Word more. (Hey, it never hurts to try a Deep Roots study…!)
Shavuot Reminds Us Of The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Finally, in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit “baptized” the Christian believers for the first time on Pentecost (Shavuot). For us as Christians, Shavuot is also a time to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit in us! It is important to remember this, because the Holy Spirit…
- Is the Lord’s presence dwelling within us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
- Is the “seal of promise” that we have received Jesus’ salvation and will go to Heaven when we die (Ephesians 1:12-14)
- Teaches us and reminds us of God’s Word (John 14:26)
- Prays on our behalf, intercedes for us, and searches our hearts (Romans 8:25-27)
- Speaks on our behalf, as in gives us the words to say, especially in times of persecution (Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11-12)
- Gives us power so that we can do “signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts” (Acts 1:8; Hebrews 2:4)
- Produces in us “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Enables us to prophesy, teach God’s Word, evangelize, heal, speak in tongues, and speak “words of wisdom”. (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-13)
So, take a moment to ask the Lord on Wednesday (and every day, really) for a fresh renewal of the Holy Spirit’s power in you! If you have already received the Holy Spirit because you accepted Christ into your heart, you cannot lose Him, but you can ask to move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit more and have deeper communion with Him.
In summary, this Wednesday you can celebrate Shavuot by taking a moment to:
- Ask yourself: Have I been tithing unto the Lord? How have I been tithing? Could I afford to give more of my time, resources, or money?
- Thank the Lord for freeing you from the clutches of sin, guilt, and shame, and letting you have freedom in His grace!
- Commit to studying and knowing God’s Word more.
- Ask the Lord for a fresh renewal of the Holy Spirit’s power in you!
Any other ideas of how you will celebrate Shavuot? Tell us in the comments!
- What Is Shavuot / Pentecost?
- Why You Should Not Tithe: An Argument Against the 1/10 Tithing Rule
- 5 Sustainable Decorations for Your Shavuot Table
- 5 Ways to Replace Dairy For Shavuot
Also take a look & follow our DIY Bible Feasts board on Pinterest, that includes more Shavuot ideas and recipes: