“I Have Not Transgressed…Nor Forgotten” (Deuteronomy 26:12-15)
Giving back to the Lord is not just a divine suggestion, but a command. Israel was commanded to give under the law of Moses. Likewise, Christians are commanded to give in the new covenant. To fail or “forget” to do so is transgression, sin.
In the Old Testament, the importance of obedient giving is emphasized in Deuteronomy 26:12-14, “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase…and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me…” (NKJV).
While the circumstances and exact requirements of this passage are not duplicated under the new covenant, several principles of giving remain intact.
First, this passage calls for preparation among God’s people. They were to have “laid aside all the tithe” for “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). To fail to prepare was to fail to support those God had obligated to Israel’s care. Likewise, Paul called upon Christians to “lay something aside” and have it ready “on the first day of the week” for “the collection for the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
Second, this requires self-discipline. Israel needed to understand part of their prosperity was “holy” (sacred) and not to be for themselves but used for God’s purposes (Deuteronomy 26:12). Therefore, Israel was not to have used it “for an unclean use” but for the purposes God already dictated (Deuteronomy 26:13). As Christians, called to give, we ought to be careful not to use up our funds for our own self-serving, materialistic purposes but have the self-control to not touch that which ought to be offered to God’s work.
Finally, giving to others in need is a reminder. In Old Testament Israel, God had rescued Israel from the Egyptians and delivered them from their helpless bondage before placing them in the “land flowing with milk and honey” (see Deuteronomy 26:5-9). Their giving memorialized what God had done for them as they replicated God’s generosity towards others. As Christians today, we give so that both needy saints and lost souls might get the help they need (Romans 15:25-26). We do so, in part, because God has given us His Son and, in imitation, we help supply the needs of others. May we be able to say of our own giving “I have not transgressed…nor have I forgotten” (Deuteronomy 26:13).