—Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (NASB)
As someone that has held administrative positions within churches that's required me to provide monthly and annual reports tracking how monies were collected and spent, these verses have really grabbed my attention. I've never heard of any religion that did not require its members to tithe of their earnings or resources in some way to support it. And so I'm recalling the typical financial reports that I would generate to show what was received and how it was spent. Typically "tithes and offerings" went into the General Fund and covered the core operations of the ministry. Separate accounts and fund raising efforts were maintained for the Missions Fund to support missionary activities and even a "Bear-A-Burden" fund to assist church members on an emergency basis. But here we have what is the equivalent to the whole yearly tithe of produce being directed NOT to the operation of the main ministry/church, but to meet the needs of the "…Levite…the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town".
I know that practically every church to varying degrees does something to provide even the most minimal community support. It might be as large and formal as a program to assist the homeless, to keeping a food closet, or participating in a community drive to assist other efforts in the same vein. But I'm not sure I've ever heard of a church that up and decided, "This year our entire budget is going to be spent on the poor and needy in our community."
I'm not advocating a radical re-engineering of church finances along these lines, but I'm certainly challenged by these verses to examine the role of the church in the community. "The Levite" certainly references someone who might have the status of being a "member" of the church, but "the alien" is reaching out to someone with absolutely no such connection to the church whatsoever, and so I'd also argue this is the case of "the orphan and the widow" since they are qualified as those "who are in your town". In other words, it's not exclusive to the widows and orphans who may happen to attend one's church, but ALL the widows and orphans in the community at large. There seems to be a very strong message here that resources dedicated to God are required by God Himself to serve beyond the operation of a church or gathering, and extend to prove that we truly love our neighbor.
The keyword here is "all": "You shall bring out ALL the tithe". And we aren't even to bring it into church or forward it on to some headquarters or to someone else, but to "deposit it in your town". We are not just called as individuals to love and serve our neighbors, but called together as a church to act together in the same manner of love to the community at large. It's the only way to "bring out ALL the tithe", to not just meet the obligation of quantity devoted to God, but quality in our actions on His behalf.†††