It seems like we can't go very long in American culture without asking the social questions: How much should the government play a role in the day-to-day lives of American citizens? Should the government provide universal health care? Should the government take more money from the rich and give it to the poor? Should the Federal Reserve print more money to cover our expanding debt?
It’s enough to make your head swim. Not to mention the fact that people on both sides of the issues are now routinely lining up to claim that Jesus would support their particular version of social policy. I think it might be fair to say that never in our history has God’s name been used so much on television (that is, when it wasn’t followed by a four-letter word).
Well, no matter what you think of America’s social policy and where God would or wouldn’t fit into it, Deuteronomy 26 is all about God’s social policy. And — surprise! — it doesn’t look like anything on either side of our aisles. "When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the Lord your God: 'I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.'" (vs 12-13)
There were certain groups of people in Israel who did not have the ability to "work." That is to say, they received no land inheritance with which to make a living. These were (1) the Levites, (2) foreigners, (3) the orphans, and (4) the widows. Basically, if you were unconnected (or had become disconnected) from your family and their inheritance, you didn’t have a way to make a living. So, what was God’s plan for providing for these groups of people? Brace yourselves. A triennial tax. Ten percent of your income once every three years. That was enough to care for the needy in Israel.
Wow. How does that sound to those of you who recently filled out tax forms? How about ten percent every three years as opposed to thirty, forty, or fifty percent every year? This is how God’s highly-efficient government works. Those who were able to be productive were expected to be productive, and those who were productive were expected to care for those who were unable to be productive. And, as everyone participated, those who were in need were cared for with very modest amounts of tithe. You see, God is such an extravagant giver that His blessings are more than enough to provide for everyone. In His government, there’s no need for the "rich" and "poor" to be at odds with each other. There is no class warfare. Israel’s citizens retained ninety-six percent of their annual income while the needy were also taken care of. Neither group was ignored or marginalized.
So I wonder how our own government would be better if we asked the Master for advice on how to govern. I’m not talking about a marriage of church and state, here. Rather, I’m talking about us as a nation of individuals humbly coming to God, recognizing that He is much more than just a pawn to be used in the promotion of our ideas. He is a super-intelligent, caring Parent who is eager to assist us in making every area of our lives better — even government!