We saw from our previous discussion that our Lord Jesus-Christ Himself showed us quite clearly that, relatively speaking, our tithing is absolutely nowhere as spiritually significant as many of us may have been led to believe. Yet, our Lord has even more to say about tithing, as we shall now see in the other two figures of speech He gave in verses 25 to 28. The picture you see above shows two sepulchers. The one in the foreground has been whitewashed while the one behind has not. Fact number one is that where you see sepulchers, you see death, plain and simple. Alarmingly, fact number two is that our Lord used them to teach us about tithing!
Whited sepulcher and dead men’s bones
Matthew 23: 27, 28 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Just when we thought it could not get any worse, Jesus compares the scribes and Pharisees as “whitewashed” sepulchers that are full of dead men’s bones. Sepulchers, full (not empty or half full) of dead men’s bones (not animal’s bones). And they are whitewashed, so they appear pretty on the outside! Oh my God…could our Lord be more offensive! Aren’t such sepulchers, full of death inside of them, but whitewashed on the outside truly deceptive? Would you ever lay on one of them for a short nap? Perhaps not, probably because you know that such polished surface is really misleading, it is deceptive. But think of the untrained eye…say a 4 year old boy. This is a clean and solid platform that is probably perfect for a play of jumping or something…Oh how deceptive this sepulcher is! If at least it was as dirty as the one in the background, so that even the 4 year old boy would know that he should stay away from it!
My brethren, this is precisely the point our Lord was making…the scribes and Pharisees did appear righteous…unto men…because they were tithing even their smallest herbs. But how did they appear to God, the one who sees the inside, the heart? They appeared as…full-of-dead-men’s-bones because they were not practicing the far more important matters of the Law. That is the deception of all deception my people. If at least the sepulcher was not polished like the one in the background…even the untrained eye would know to stay away. My brethren, when we tithe without fail, religiously every month (or week or whatever frequency), but do not practice mercy, judgment and faith, let us hear, my brethren, loud and clear what our Lord is telling us…”we (you the reader, me the writer), we are like whitewashed sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones”. And this my friend, this my dearest loved one…it is an abomination in the presence of our Lord! We may be able to deceive men, but we cannot deceive God. Oh that in such case, it would be better for us not to be so adept at tithing. At least we would not be deceiving the people around us; at least we would not be trying to deceive our God!
The cup and the platter
Verses 25 and 26 record the second of the three figures of speech Jesus gave to show just how “grave” the actions of the scribes and Pharisees were (and this might even be an understatement). This illustration is particularly telling, at least for us. As we said earlier, if our understanding is correct, all three illustrations (the two here and the one in part 1) are here to support the one accusation Jesus brought up in verse 23, and if so they should be looked at and studied in that context.
Matthew 23: 25, 26 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Now, do you remember how thirsty you were in part 1 of this series? If you are like us, this is probably the order of preference you came up with: 1) A perfectly clean glass filled with truly fresh and cold water, 2) a glass that is somewhat, and perhaps even quite dirty on the outside, but is filled with truly fresh and cold water, and 3) nothing, absolutely nothing. If you are like us, you will rather have absolutely nothing to drink than drink truly filthy sewage water. Matter of fact, the filthy sewage water is probably not even an option for you because it is a “serious” health hazard. It is not “option number 4″…it is simply NOT an option.
Now remember that the person who brought you this filthy sewage water is someone you love. And this loved one did it knowing that you were thirsty. Even worse, this loved one made sure to bring you this filthy drink in a perfectly clean glass. How…my friend…would you feel? How would you feel? Wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you be deeply hurt, bleeding inside because of the hatred that was displayed? Isn’t the clean glass truly adding insult to injury? In fact, the clean glass is perhaps the one sign that truly confirms that this person might actually hate you! Why bring such a thing, when I am truly thirsty, and on top this…in a clean glass? You will probably feel truly deceived and mocked. You are not going to accept this cup, not matter how clean the cup is. You will certainly cast it aside, and then you will try your hardest to get over the emotional pain, the hurt that loved one inflicted you with.
But you see my friend; this story is not yours…and it is not mine. It is God’s. The One who really loves you to the point of sacrificing is only begotten Son for you. Him, our God, does not thirst for water like you or me; instead He thirsts and truly thirsts for judgment, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). Yes, our God is very thirsty of judgment, He is very thirsty of faith, and He is very thirsty of mercy. And that perfect clean glass filled with filthy sewage water is what I am offering Him, when I give Him my tithe, each month without fail, while I do not practice faith, while I am not merciful or compassionate to my neighbor or to a stranger or the homeless, or while I do not practice good judgment, being partial and unfair in my day-to-day affairs. My Lord looks at me in the face and tells me “this beautiful gift package you gave me hides nothing but extortion and excess…why are you trying to deceive me?” If I do not practice faith, if I do not practice justice, and if I do not practice mercy, then I practice extortion and excess: This is my Lord’s assessment, and His assessment is right, whether I recognize it or not.
Oh my friends, listen to what our Lord is telling us in Matthew 23:25-28. And now let us think about it for a moment: If what He said was true when tithing was a commandment, when people were obligated to observe it, how true should we suppose it is now that it is only voluntary giving from the heart that counts!? If God could be hurt even though tithing was a commandment in those times, how should we suppose He is hurt now that it is no longer a commandment? How my friend can our God accept such an offer from us: a deception, a trick, a show of hatred to the highest degree from those who know full well that faith, judgment and mercy are what God longs for? Because our God says clearly that we are liars if we say that we love Him but hate our neighbor! You and I would “never” in a million years drink of such a cup. For you and I, this cup full of filthy sewage water is like a dagger used by one we thought loved us in order to pierce our hearts. So how my people, how on earth can we expect God to drink of such a cup when we offer it to Him? How should we expect our Father to feel? My brothers and sisters, this IS hypocrisy, and this HURTS our Father! The fact of the matter is, we know what we do; we know when we are not being just with our neighbor or brethren. We know when we do not act on faith (for without faith, it is impossible to please Him). We know when we doubt His willingness or ability. We know when we are not compassionate, often using the head-in-the-sand-and-then-ignore approach. Or worse, we know when we are not merciful, choosing rather to blame the poor for being poor, because, “they must have not believed rightly, and that must explain why they are where they are”. Yet, our Lord said, I am hungry, I am in prison, I am naked. We do all these things, yet on Sunday (or Saturday, or Tuesday, …), we give our check of tithe, feeling good within ourselves that unlike others, WE are faithful to God.
My friends…this is not the time to be offended! This is time to repent! It is our Lord Himself who spoke to us this way. It is our Lord who compared us to whitewashed sepulchers when we do not do what truly matters to His Father. It is our Lord who told us that we are swallowing camel…WHEN my brethren, WHEN are we going to take a stand and say “NO MORE! Father I now want to serve YOU, as you said, in Spirit and in Truth. Forgive me Father for I have sinned!”. WHEN my friend are we going to do this? We cannot fool God. And when we operate this way, our tithe are ABOMINATIONS!
Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.