God calls us to be holy, because He is holy (Lev. 11:44, 45). This involves being set apart, living differently than the world around us. Yahweh is calling us to a higher standard, not to make us look foolish, but so that we can witness and care for those around us, so that our lives draw people to God through their healthiness and wholeness (Isa. 2:1–4). Holiness is manifested in practical things, not just inner character. The Ten Words are universal, describing God’s character and how we are to live it out. But the Israelites were not always clear what that would look like, so Moses gave them many examples in Deuteronomy 12–26. Some of the application laws are not directly relevant anymore, but the principles still apply. Others, however, are included in the universal law along with the Ten Words, because it is clear through the rest of the Bible that they apply to everyone else as well. Some of the dietary laws are part of this universal law, not the application laws, including not eating blood and not eating unclean animals.

The reasons that not eating unclean animals is part of the universal law include the following. God gives a distinction between clean and unclean animals from the very beginning (Gen. 6–9). In addition, when God gives the diet after the flood, He notes that only some of the animals may be eaten (in the Hebrew of Gen. 9:3). There is also no way to make unclean animals clean in the Torah (Lev. 11). Eating unclean meat is called an abomination, which is on par with the most heinous sins. In Leviticus, God also notes that one of the reasons He cast out the Canaanites was that they did not follow the food laws regarding unclean animals (Lev. 20:22–26). In addition, only clean animals are able to be sacrificed, but there are some clean animals that are not able to be sacrificed, which shows that the attribution is not a matter of ritual cleanliness.

Although it is important to see that diet is part of the universal law, the most powerful point to ponder from this passage is that God commands us to rejoice! Living a holy life is all about learning to fear the Lord, recognizing that He has blessed us, and then rejoicing in the gifts He has given. This change in our hearts leads us to overflow with good deeds toward those around us, including the most vulnerable and oppressed. As a result, tithing here is not so much about “giving back to God,” but rather rejoicing together with God and giving to help others, including those who are working for God and would not get paid otherwise. It is all about the attitude, and our hearts need changing to see it this way. The system of tithing in Deuteronomy 14 calls us to give much more than we would today, hinting at the need to see tithing as an outpouring of our heart’s gratitude, not a legalistic requirement for salvation.