Except for the elements of their own humanity – flesh and blood – nothing about Israel was to be like their neighbors around them.
Because, God said, “You are the children of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1).
A close friend’s mother lay dying. She made a special request for all the children and grandchildren to be brought in (most of the latter, teenagers). On what they all thought was her deathbed (she did recover to live several more years) she began to rehearse the greatness and goodness of their grandfather (who, before his own death, had been a leader in their church and town). She talked about how they had tried live in a way to be examples to them all, and how they had worked to be honorable people before God and the community. Then, with an unmistakable seriousness, she said: “Don’t you dare live your lives in any way that would shame this family.”
It’s what the Lord meant by “You are the children of the Lord your God.” In the eyes of God, we are not like everyone else. We must not live like everyone else. Not even our grief is to be like that of the people around us. We may not, cannot, live like our contemporaries who do not share our heritage. We’re better than that. We should live better.
Nor, really, should we expect our contemporaries who have not bought into our way of life to share our values. And so, in the middle of chapter fourteen, God says: “Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the Lord your God.”
That I am aware of, the rules of Deuteronomy 14:22-27 occur only here in the Bible, but they give us some insight to the matter of the “tithe.” It was never just ten percent of one’s earnings. It was at least that. Then, every three years, there was an additional tithe that was to be given for the Levites and the poor. Nor was the tithe so sacrosanct that it could only be used for religious purposes. Note that the tithe was also to be used to throw a party (kind of like a church social). Some folks have made the Christian collection so holy that it almost cannot be used, but must be laid up in store for the Lord when He comes. Such false piety is but an excuse for spiritual hoarding, which ultimately destroys faith because trust in God (rather than the church’s bank account) is undermined.