The Sabbath Year has a number of applications that in effect alter the Law in relation to its function in normal years. One of the things that seems to confuse some people is the application of the tithe legislation in relation to the Sabbath Year.
The normal function of the Fourth Commandment is to enjoin on all the faithful a requirement to not only observe the Sabbath Day but to labour for the other six days per week. Thus the commandment encompasses a large number of concepts. Like all the Commandments of God they are based on the Two Great Commandments, which are extended to the Ten, and which are then extended to the entire body of the Law of God (see paper The Law of God (L1)).
The Sabbath Year however allows each person to be freed from the legal obligation to labour on a weekly basis throughout the year, with the exception of the Feasts and Holy Days and the occasional leave from labour granted for the normal day-to-day functioning of the society.
The Sabbath Year requires the land to be rested from commercial cropping and for it to be used for the rest and enjoyment of the poor and the needy. This requirement has actually seen God intervene and send Israel into captivity to achieve the required rest for the land and its Sabbaths.
By the requirement to refrain from commercial exploitation of the land and the annual cropping during this year, each person is absolved from the requirement to produce by regular labour an annual tithable income. This year is set aside for the education of the individual in the Laws of God and in the endeavours that the individual has set aside for himself relating to the regulation of the society and the implementation of the Laws of God and its social structure. In practice, the individual is able to set aside the Sabbath Year for the study of a subject within his or her sphere of endeavour within the society. This practice is employed by universities to this day and is called Sabbatical leave or Sabbatical studies.
It is a matter of fact that not all people are farmers and are not all dependent upon the produce of the land. Within today’s society the majority of people work on a regular basis and only the very, very, few are privileged enough to be given paid Sabbatical leave. That does not however, limit the application of the Law or its interpretation for the purposes of interpretation of the rights and entitlements of the individual under the Law.
In the biblical society ruled under the Laws of God, the person is entitled to cease from normal labour in this year and to pursue the studies of the Laws of God in particular. It is a matter of the individual’s choice as to whether he or she labours and earns income from labour other than commercial cropping.
The land is thus freed and it will in fact produce whatever grows of itself. This places an onus on the individual that involves a determination as to what constitutes tithable income. There are also a number of ordinances that involve firstlings, and other ordinances that follow from the normal husbandry of the flocks. The fact is that most people in today’s society experience no such firstling problems because we do not regulate the society as it is set out in the Bible.
The promise was given to us by God, that we would be given a treble harvest in the year preceding the Sabbath and the Jubilee Year. This was to ensure that enough tithe and produce and tithe income was available to enable us to keep the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year. This follows each normal Sabbath cycle where the Sabbath Year is enabled by the grace of God in the Sixth Year or, sometimes, even from the Fifth Year.
There is thus a greater degree of freedom extended to the individual in the Sabbath Year than there would otherwise be under the Law for each year within the cycle other than the Sabbath.
Accordingly, the tithe system for the Sabbath Year is made freer than would otherwise be experienced. In the Sabbath Year the individual is allowed to determine the combination of their harvests as being what grows of itself and what is actual earned income.
In each year the Church allows the individual the freedom to determine the net tithable income. Many Churches of God operating under the tithe system do not follow this practice. Some insist that the tithe payable is on gross income before costs. Businesses do not and cannot operate on this process. This is, of itself, a complicated argument in determining the proper procedure for the determination of the actual tithable profit.
The Church has left it to the individual to work out their net tithable income in normal years. In Sabbath Years it says that all moneys payable to the Church are classed as offerings and it is up to the individual to determine what they believe to be responsible income, free of costs, payable to the Church. In the Sabbath Year the individual does not need to labour on a weekly basis in accordance with the Fourth Commandment. In a normal year, if a man decided simply to take the year off and do nothing, he would legally be in breach of the Fourth Commandment. Every person, even the disabled, is required to do what they can do for the furtherance and the benefit of the society in which they live. In the Sabbath Year they are freed from this obligation and they may use the year for the study they have chosen to undertake.
Thus, they are also free to provide for the Church, its work, and its ministry and the poor in its charge on an offering basis. It is up to the individual to determine what has been set aside from the Second Tithe income of the previous six years and that which is available in the Seventh Year. The Church has not and will not involve itself in the ordering of payments and the limiting of the accumulation of Second Tithe income for expenditure in the Sabbath Year.
Many people of the Churches of God have difficulty with this concept. Many have been ordered to send all excess Second Tithe to the church each year. Many have been ordered to send a Third Tithe every three years to the church headquarters and that this tithe is in addition to the Second Tithe, which it is not.
The Third Tithe is a misnomer for the Second Tithe of the Third Year of the Sabbath Cycle. Every Third Year of the cycle, the Second Tithe is to be paid into the Church for the poor funds (Third Year Funds) to enable the attendance at feasts of the poor and less fortunate.
One of the most deceitful games we have seen played is the attack on sections of the tithing legislation and its implementation by people purporting to be members of the Churches of God and some even coming to and/or trying to become members of CCG when they are in fact Antinomians. They do not in fact support much or any of the Law of God. We have had to dismiss people because of this pretext and viewpoint when their views have finally emerged. Our views on tithing are listed in the paper Tithing (No. 161). If you do not agree with us, do not come to us professing to want to join us. You are being dishonest.
We make no apology for the freedoms and responsibility we place on the individual for the determination of their support and assistance to the Church.
Each of us is required to support the Church, and the poor of the Church, and subsequently the society in which we live. In the Sabbath Year you are required to determine the offerings that you give to the Church taking into account that which you have earned, that which you have taken by windfall, and that which you have taken from funds drawn from the savings of the Second Tithe of previous years. The Church has stated that these funds are offerings. Thus, you may labour or you may not, and you are free to determine your income and expenditure and the amounts that you provide to the Church for its operations. You are thus free in that sense to form your own judgment as to the correct or incorrect determination of the balance of your earnings and tithing obligations
The Church has the power under the Law to make such determinations, and each of us should be grateful that we have no greater burden placed on us.
Give as you are able and give as you have determined to give. Fulfil your vows. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Do not take issue with your brothers because they have different views than you regarding their obligations and responsibilities. Be thankful that each of us is able to walk in the faith, as we are able.
More importantly, do not neglect your brothers and the Church of God in the execution of their tasks and responsibilities in the Law of God and the promulgation of the Faith.
The tithe legislation is another aspect of the love of God and the love of one another.
Show you love God by a demonstration of how you love one another, who are the Church of God.
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