Sunday, March 8, 2009

lessons from rocup :: part 1

I want to report on how the Rochester Urban Plunge (henceforth written as 'rocup') went, but in a weeks time I've learned too much to be contained in a single post.  Writing all this out is part of my processing process, so I apologize if the material is rather raw.  The thoughts haven't been refined well yet.

Each morning of the trip we had a Bible study.  We split into two small groups for this.  I led one, Mark led the other.  These studies had a significant impact for me in particular.

One morning we studied Deut. 14:22 - 15:11.  The end of chapter 14 discusses tithing; the beginning of 15 discusses cancelling debts every 7 years, as well as generosity to the poor.  The commands about tithing shocked me.  Each year, the Israelites were to set aside a tenth of their produce and take it all to Jerusalem and throw a big party with it.  But every third year, instead of a party in Jerusalem, they had to set aside the tenth and store it in their towns for the Levites, the widows, and others in need.  Hopefully, I'm about to start making some money.  I can't imagine what kind of party I might be able to throw if I set aside 10% for a whole year and had one big, week-long celebration with it.  Median starting salary for a mechanical engineer graduating from RIT with a Masters degree is $52,000 (source).  $5200 is a big party.  Jerusalem must have been rockin' (especially considering that everything that was used for one week of partying fed a whole bunch of people for three years).  God loves it when we celebrate him.  But, he does say, "don't neglect the Levites," which I take to mean "invite them to the party too."  
I can't imagine that it would be an easy thing to do to set aside that much for one celebration.  It seems so wasteful.  Wouldn't it be better to give it away?  Someone brought up this story, too.  Jesus's disciples were taken aback by the incredible waste of the woman's lavish gift.  But Jesus approved.  I don't really understand this yet.  At least I'm still uncomfortable with it.

It's interesting, though, to combine the ideas of celebration being honoring to God -- even lavish, "wasteful" celebration -- with another passage we studied.  Luke 14:1-24.  Jesus teaches that when we throw parties (it's something he assumes we will do... just as the "when you pray," "when you fast," etc. of the sermon on the mount) we aren't to invite people that can pay us back, but the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  After all, that's the way it will be in the Kingdom of God.  Those who are esteemed least in our worldly society are given the place of highest honor.

So, what if next year I took 10% of everything I earned and threw a big party for the poor?

And here's one of the biggest lessons for me from rocup:  To even think about doing something like that, I'd have to know a lot of poor people.


Chops said...

I think an important corollary to the "big party" method of tithing (fermented drinks expressly encouraged) is that caring for the poor is above and beyond the tithe. This is commanded elsewhere (I won't look it up), but isn't associated with the 10% number, as we often assume. It's an imperative without a lower - or, more importantly - upper bound.

Tim said...

The alblaster jar -- do you read Becca's blog? Read her latest post about India entitled "update" -- I think God really does want us to bring things that really do mean something to us to Him from time to time. I know that note wasn't written at the time you wrote this post, though.

However, in a sense, I think you might be using the wrong paradigm. Two things to consider here -- Jesus REALLY made a difference in that women's life. What price can you put on that? I think she is just doing the best she can to give Jesus her gratitude because what is that perfume in comparison to death? Second, Jesus explained it as "you won't always have me with you". I think that verse does make the first point that Jesus made even stronger. How often we don't stop to show how much we appreciate someone else? How do you know that you won't regret not having done so when they die.
(Ok, I'm now caught up in going through your past blog posts).