God's Labor Laws, part 3
Aug 15, 2018
God’s labor created matter out of Himself, for Romans 11:36 reads in The Emphatic Diaglott,
36 Because out of Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory for the ages. Amen.
The Greeks in Paul’s day believed that the gods created all things out of pre-existing matter which they called chaos. Later, others proposed that matter was created out of nothing. In Latin this was expressed as ex nihilo, and this is the term often used in theological circles today.
But Paul says that creation was made “out of Him,” that is, out of God—or, as I say, “God particles.” It all came “out of Him,” it all goes “through Him,” and ultimately, it is all “for Him” and, as both the KJV and the NASB reads, “to Him.” Whereas the Greeks might have accepted that matter came out of the evil god which they called the Demiurge, they would have rejected the biblical assertion that matter came out of a good God. They were too steeped in the idea that matter was inherently evil.
Yet we believe that a good God created matter out of Himself and that it was therefore “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We also believe that in the restoration of all things it must all return to Him, because no God particle can be lost without causing God to remain incomplete for eternity.
Creation and Formation
First, God created. Then, in a secondary step, God formed man (Genesis 2:7). Here God is pictured as a Master Craftsman, giving shape to the dirt and clay that He had created earlier. Jeremiah 18:1-10 God pictures Himself as a Potter shaping clay to suit His purposes. In Isaiah 64:8 the prophet confesses plainly,
8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.
As earthen vessels, formed for His sovereign purpose, we are subordinate to the Creator who owns all that He has created out of Himself. In plain language, He owns Himself. Hence, we are stewards, not owners. If we say that we own something, our definition of ownership is always limited to the amount of labor that we have put into it.
Each owns his own labor. God made the trees; we take God’s trees and shape them into boards to make furniture. Hence, we own the desk, but God owns the wood in the desk. When a man harvests ten trees, giving one of them to God as a tithe to support Kingdom government, we buy the right to use the remaining nine trees in any way that is lawful. Even so, God retains ownership of the wood itself, proven by the fact that the use of the wood is still subject to the law of God. It would be unlawful, then, to use the wood to make an idol.
The same is true with our own bodies, which were formed from the dust of the ground. We do not own ourselves, because we did not create ourselves. We have a level of authority as stewards, but we do not have sovereignty as creators. Though we may redeem ourselves with five shekels of silver, as the Israelites did (Numbers 3:47), this only gives us (partial) authority over ourselves. No Israelite, redeemed in this way, could ever buy for himself the right to sin.
So also when God gave each tribe and family a land inheritance in the Promised Land, they remained stewards on God’s land, having authority but not sovereignty over the land. The land was God’s inheritance first, and man’s inheritance only secondarily. So God says in Leviticus 25:23,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
Though the people were given land, they were to understand that they were “aliens and sojourners” on God’s land. All property rights were in relation to each other only. Each man had to respect the property rights of his neighbor. In fact, all of the rights of men were in respect to each other. In respect to God, the rights of men are only privileges granted by the Higher Power.
Governments were instituted among men to guarantee God-given rights among men, but at no time did God give governments the power to grant rights or to deprive God of His rights as the Creator. America’s Declaration of Independence established this in the beginning, even though in the past century evil men ignored the foundational document by which this nation was established, reinterpreted the Constitution, and usurped the place of God.
The rights of man, as guaranteed in the divine law, are seen most clearly in God’s labor laws. Each man has the right to “own” his own labor, as long as it was obtained in a lawful manner. If he violated the law, he was required normally to pay double restitution (Exodus 22:4). In other words, lawless labor could not be used as a claim on ownership, because such a man was acting as an unjust steward.
After the creation of the world, God set up a business relationship with men. Technically, all men were God’s slaves, owned by God. Yet God loved creation, because He cannot hate His own God particles. For this reason, He treats men with all the love that is inherent in His nature. His will and desire is to upgrade our relationship with Him from slaves to friends and sons.
The slavery that is practiced among ungodly or ignorant men can be quite brutal, but because God is love, He is a loving Master who uses His position for our benefit. When men sin, God judges as a Father, who disciplines His children in order to train them to reach their full potential in the end.
When men labor in God’s field, they work according to the terms of a contract defined by law. One of the terms of this contract is the provision that God is given 10 percent of that which is produced from nature (God’s labor). Man’s labor is rewarded with 90 percent of the increase as payment for his labor.
Kingdom Taxes (Tithes)
A just tax is a return on labor (i.e., for services being rendered). The biblical tithe is not based on God’s sovereignty over mankind, but upon His labor. We often misunderstand the purpose of the tithe, because our thinking has been warped by the way governments normally tax people. Governments set tax rates according to their greed or need. God sets His tax rate according to a fixed contract (covenant) in order to obtain a return on His labor.
The business relationship between God and men is based upon the right to own what a person has produced by his own labor. God provides the land, the air, the sunlight, the rain, etc., while man provides his own labor to plant, to cultivate, and to reap the increase of wealth at the time of harvest. The contract says that man receives 90 percent of the increase for his labor, while God gets 10 percent of the increase for His labor.
This is the basic law of the tithe in Deuteronomy 14:22,
22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.
This is repeated in more detail in Leviticus 27:30-32,
30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32 And for every tenth part of the herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.
It is important to note that a tenth of all that is produced from nature (God’s labor) “is the Lord’s.” It does not belong to man, nor should man think of his tithe as a donation from that which he himself owns. No, it was never his, because the tenth represents God’s labor.
If the farmer or rancher wants to purchase God’s portion, he may do so by adding one-fifth of its commercial value and giving the money to God instead of the actual grain or animal. Converting the tithe to cash turns the tithe from 10 percent to 12 percent.
The tithe was to go toward the support of local government, represented by the Levites. Numbers 18:21 says,
21 And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.
The tithe, which is God’s by virtue of His labor, is assigned to the local government officials “in return for their service,” or labor.
Not all Levites were priests, but all priests were Levites. When the Bible speaks of Levites, the term usually refers to those tribal members who were not priests from the family of Aaron. All of the Levites, whether priests or not, were responsible to teach people the laws of God and to enforce those laws when any man violated the rights of his neighbor.
Local Levites were expected to be experts in the law, so they usually were the judges. However, they could appeal to the high priest at the national court of justice, where the Ark of the Covenant was located and where God had chosen to put His name. In the days of Moses, it appears that Moses functioned as the Chief Justice, for in Deuteronomy 1:16, 17, he charged the judges to be impartial and righteous, concluding, “and the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it.”
The priests labored in the service of the tabernacle to ensure that the nation as a whole functioned as a nation under God. They were called to enforce the rights of God and men. For their labor as representatives of the national government and judicial system, ten percent of the tithe was given to support them. Numbers 18:26 says,
26 Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, “When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.”
A just tax is a return on labor. Men’s taxes are arbitrary most of the time, extracting as much as possible to enrich themselves or to fund projects that God has not authorized. Taxes are to be used for lawful labor only, but the quality of labor should be determined by standard of God’s law, not by the laws (traditions and philosophies) of men.
This is part 3 of a series titled "God's Labor Laws." To view all parts, click the link below.