Tithing: When we misquote our Lord Jesus-Christ (Part 2 of 2)

FraudInterestingly, the structure and meaning presented in Part 1 are found in all the occurrences of the word kakeinos, except in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. As we saw, kakeinos is used to refer to the object or subject “just spoken about”. It is a form of emphasis…that onethat “same one” I just spoke about. But now let us return to Matthew 23:23 again, where instead it is translated “and the other”. We see that when translated as such, kakeinos is made here to refer to the more “distant” object – i.e. the tithe of mint and anise and cumin – while it should be referring to the object Jesus had just spoken about – i.e. the weightier matters of the law… –. We contend that there is simply no rationale for changing the meaning of this word in this specific instance only. Therefore, if we re-insert its proper meaning, Matthew 23:23 becomes:

Matthew 23:23 [KJV] – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted [aphiémi: neglected] the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye [dei: it is absolutely necessary] to have done, and those ones you should not have neglected [aphiémi].

NOTE: Please note that this is “our” belief, a belief we reached based on what we studied. It is not a guarantee for the truth, and we encourage you to challenge this view we are about to present. Therefore, although the language in the article is very assertive, it is only an assertion of our belief, not of the truth. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to do your own study and tell us whether you reach a different conclusion. 

To paraphrase, we believe Jesus was saying…“You pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and you have neglected the heavier (i.e. more important) matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these are the absolutely necessary things to do, and those ones (i.e. the heavier matters) you should not have neglected.”

Misquoting Jesus_2As such, we see that Jesus’ “entire” message was focused “exclusively” on the heavier matters of the Law. Compare it to what we believe is the counterfeit message found in the New Living Translation for example: “…You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things”. Big deal? Ohhhhh Yes! BIG deal, as we will see in the second half of the series! How did we put words in the mouth of our Lord which He never intended to utter! Is the NLT version what our Lord said?

Interestingly, a few of the older and lesser known versions of the Bible appear to translate Matthew 23:23 the exact same way we believe it is to be understood. Here are the Darby Bible Translation, the Young’s Literal Translation and the Douay-Rheims Bible.

Matthew 23:23 [Darby] – Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and ye have left aside the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith: these ye ought to have done and not have left those aside.

Matthew 23:23 [Young’s] – Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye give tithe of the mint, and the dill, and the cumin, and did neglect the weightier things of the Law — the judgment, and the kindness, and the faith; these it behoved you to do, and those not to neglect.

Matthew 23:23 [Douay-Rheims] – Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone.

My dear brothers and sisters, if our understanding is correct, then Jesus never said “…and you should keep tithing” in Matthew 23:23 or Luke 11:42. True, from His own account, Jesus acknowledged that the scribes and Pharisees were pretty good at observing tithing. But did you also notice that He never offered them the slightest compliment for doing so? Context does matter, and therefore, we should either take the complete message of our Lord or take none of it! Furthermore, through this short study, we believe that we can come to the only logical conclusion that the scriptures themselves mercilessly shred all attempts to counterfeit the teachings from our Lord Jesus-Christ. A quick survey showed that among 21 of the most popular English translations, 17 of them – including the NIV, KJV, NLT, ESV, NASB, ISV, and ASV – misquote our Lord Jesus-Christ, yet they seem to understand perfectly well what “kakeinos” means in the other passages. The remaining four (4) do translate it the way we believe it should be translated: Darby’s, Young’s, Douay-Rheims and the Aramaic Bible in Plain English. And even among those four, only two Bible versions remain consistent between Matthew and Luke: Darby’s and Young’s.

Misquoting Jesus_3Some observations and questions:

There at least two elements we find truly remarkable here. The first observation is the timing of Jesus’s teaching on tithing: He uttered these words when the Law was still in “full effect”. In those days, the people were “commanded” to observe tithing. So we know that Jesus, who fulfilled the Law, Himself must have tithed. Yet, how amazing is it that He showed concern for other things only, those things which He described as “far more valuable” in the sight of God. We see that the only reason Jesus recognized their practice of tithing was in order to highlight just how really off the mark they were! “Woe unto you” He told them. Now, we know that the little word “Woe” in Jesus’ mouth carries a pretty big stick!

The second observation is that although He was addressing the scribes and the Pharisees, He was not addressing them because they were the “teachers” of the law, but because they were the worst at following it. Put it another way, if Jesus gave this message today, He would probably be speaking to our pastors, bishops, apostles and the like, not because they are our leaders, but because they are often the worst when it comes to obeying God’s commandments. But the greater message here is that Jesus’ teaching is “directed” toward us, you and me, servants and children of God. The message is not exclusive to leaders, but to anyone who does not obey God. Shouldn’t this statement of the Christ Himself here in Matthew 23:23 cause us to re-evaluate all the teachings on tithing? Aren’t translations such as the NLT truly dangerous? And aren’t these facts compelling incentives to become genuine students of the scriptures ourselves? And shouldn’t this statement by Jesus-Christ, our Lord, cause us to take a second, very hard look at “how” we tithe?

The implications of Jesus’s teaching on tithing can “really” be devastating. As we will see in the second half of this series, our tithing could be “literally” abominations in the sight of our Father, offers of a foul-odor to His nostrils! Yes my friends, what we are offering may be truly abominable! But the magnificent beauty of the Word of God, the majestic wisdom of our God, is that although tithing is no longer of this era, it can still be of the sweetest-smelling odor to our God. Indeed, as we shall see, it can! While it is true that many of us offer tithe of a foul-odor, some do offer tithe which brings immeasurable joy to our Father’s heart. For those who choose to tithe, a tithe of a sweet-smelling odor should be the goal. In fact, we actually do not believe that the true question is whether we should tithe or not. Yet, one could understand why “tithing” is one the biggest debated subjects among the followers of Christ today. 

But glory be to God, for the knowledge of His Truth makes us free! Glory to the Amen, the faithful witness, for as He promised, not one jot or tittle shall pass! His teachings endure forever. May our Father be with us, bringing us to an ever more perfect knowledge of His Will. Amen.

Tithing: When we misquote our Lord Jesus-Christ (Part 1 of 2)

FraudAnyone who loves to teach that the principle of tithing is a commandment of God still in full force in the New Testament has been confronted mercilessly with at least three facts from the scriptures themselves: First, occurrences of the word “tithing” are notoriously rare in the NT as shown previously. Second, our Lord Jesus-Christ Himself spoke of it only three times; and third, in each of these occasions, our Lord used tithing in a negative context. Nevertheless, the much more serious problem, as we shall argue, is that this lack of support from the New Testament has led – we believe – to the birth and cancer-like spread of arguably one of the most disturbing, disgustingly atrocious, and deceptive lies ever to taint the printed Word of God, which we know as the Bible. And the implications are equally damaging!

NOTE: Please note that this is “our” belief, a belief we reached based on what we studied. It is not a guarantee for the truth, and we encourage you to challenge this view we are about to present. Therefore, although the language in the article is very assertive, it is only an assertion of our belief, not of the truth. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to do your own study and tell us whether you reach a different conclusion. 

As we resume this discussion on tithing, we now focus mainly on the first time our Lord spoke about it. It is recorded in Matthew 23:23-28 (Luke 11:42 is a very similar but apparently a different account). Here and in Part 2, we argue that in just about “all” the popular English bible translations (and at least two prominent French translations too!), our Lord has been shamelessly misquoted. We do say “shamelessly” because in most cases, the mistranslation “appears” to have been deliberate, so as to convey a message that is “very” different than what our Lord really gave. In the second half of our study, entitled “What is my tithe worth?” we look at the larger context of Jesus’s message in order to assess the implications of what we believe are His “true” teachings on tithing. From this study, we reached the conclusion that our Lord’s teachings on tithing probably carry some of the most severe implications ever recorded in the scriptures. How would you feel if you found out that your tithing (even your “faithful” tithing) was a stinky and detestable abomination to God? Yes, an abomination to our Father! And indeed, it appears that for some of us, our tithing is just that…detestable, stinky and downright abominable to our Father. But that is for later. For now, let us focus on what we believe is a mistranslation.

Matthew 23:23 [KJV] – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other [Greek: kakeinos] undone.

The message seems to be rather clear. Our Lord was calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites because while they tithed faithfully, they had neglected the more important matters of the law: Judgment, mercy and faith. In addition, the verse appears to suggest also that Jesus said…“you should do these more important things, and you should not forget to tithe either”. Here is how the New Living Translation, for instance, renders this verse to make this idea crystal clear.

Misquoting Jesus_1

Matthew 23:23 [NLT] – What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Let’s look at some of the instances of the the Greek word kakeinos:

The Greek word translated “and…the other” in the King James Version of Matthew 23:23 is the word “kakeinos”. It means “and that one” or “and those ones” in its plural form. It is used 22 times in the New Testament. Looking at some of those passages should help us understand the intended use of this word.

Matthew 15:18 – But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they [kakeinos] defile the man.

Mark 12:4 – And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him [kakeinos] they cast stones, and wounded [him] in the head, and sent [him] away shamefully handled.

John 7:29 – But I know him: for I am from him, and he [kakeinos] hath sent me.

Acts 5:37 – After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also [kakeinos] perished; and all, [even] as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

2 Timothy 2:12 – If we suffer, we shall also reign with [him]: if we deny [him], he also [kakeinos] will deny us:

Let us look very carefully at the structures of the verses above. It should be clear that Mathew 15:18 means “…and those ones defile the man”. Which things defile? The “same” things just spoken about, “…those which proceed out of the mouth”. Likewise, it should be clear that Mark 12:4 means “…and at that one they cast stones”. To whom did they cast stones? To the “same” other servant just spoken about. It should also be clear that John 7:29 means “and that one has sent me”. Who sent Jesus? The One just spoken about…“Him” (God). Likewise, it should also be clear that Acts 5:37 means “and that one also perished”. Who perished? The “same” one just spoken about…Judas of Galilee. And finally, it should be clear that 2 Timothy 2:12 means “that one also will deny us”. Who will deny us? The “same” one just spoken about…Jesus.

It should at this point be interesting to see how the structure and meaning of the Greek word kakeinos, as described above compare with the ones in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. Click here to continue.

Five facts about “tithing”…and Jesus!

heap of coins close upEver wondered if Jesus ever spoke about the practice of tithing? Now tithing is – for better or for worse – a “very” sensitive topic (although it really should not be). So here, we will focus on some facts, just plain simple facts. For a subject claimed to be of such importance, some of these simple facts may surprise you. So let’s go right to them.

Fact number 1: In the “entire” bible, the noun/verb “tithe” (or tithing) whether in the singular or plural appears 40 times. For comparison, the noun/verb “love” (and it derivations) appear 555 times. This is a ratio of almost 14-to-1!

Fact number 2:  If we focus on the New Testament alone, “tithing” is cited 8 times, while “love” is cited 261 times. This is a ratio of almost 33-to-1! And Oh…“Christ” is cited 555 times (this is 70-to-1)!

Now, if the number of times a concept appears in the bible is “some” indicator of its importance, what do you suppose the scripture is trying to tell us? Well, may be we should not guess and let Jesus speaks Himself. Here are some additional facts.

Fact number 3: The 8 times “tithing” is cited specifically in the New Testament appear to be only 4 accounts. One (1) of the four (4) accounts is by the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 7:5-9). Interestingly, the other three (3) accounts are from the mouth of Jesus-Christ himself. Let’s put it bluntly: God wants us to know that Jesus spoke of tithing in none but 3 times! And He wants us to know what He said! Now, do you think that perhaps those three times deserve some attention? The first account is recorded in Matthew 23:23, the second is in Luke 11:42, and the third account is recorded in Luke 18:12. We look at them a little deeper in a separate article, especially the first account and the second, which we believe have even been mistranslated.  But for now, let’s resume with the facts.

Fact number 4: In the three (3) unique accounts where Jesus makes specific reference to tithing, He is using it in a “negative” context! And before you try to guess, it is NOT because the people were not doing it! Read those accounts for yourselves.

Five Facts_1

Matthew 23:23 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 18:9-14 – And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Fact number 5: The one account in the book of Hebrews is interesting for at least two reasons. 1) It is addressed to the Jews specifically, those people who were – and were supposed to be – “familiar” with the principle of tithing, and 2) it is referring to “past” events, events which belong to the era of the law!

These simple facts beg some questions:

One must ask: If tithing is as important as claimed by our church leaders today, why is there so little space dedicated to it in the “whole” bible, and even more stunningly, in the New Testament? If tithing is as important as claimed; how come there is not a “single” verse specifically addressed to the gentiles mentioning it? Gentiles were not familiar with this concept! So why did not God address it explicitly to introduce it to them, especially if it is so important? By the way, you may at this point be interested in our series entitled “A Very Inconvenient Truth”. If it is as important as claimed, how can one explain that the only reason Jesus-Christ ever spoke of it was to teach us that there are “far” more important things we should actually worry about?

If there is “one” subject in the Bible in which just about all churches and Christian denominations agree (of course, there must be a “few” exceptions) it is the subject of tithing: “We should give our tithes”, as they will gladly remind us as often as they deem necessary. But here is the non-trivial problem with this position: It is a fact that among these churches, some of them are run by demons, and some of them are led by false prophets and salvage wolves. Therefore, is this evidence, this undeniable fact suggesting that there is a truth in the scriptures that is SO TRUE that even false prophets and salvages wolves delight in it? Where in the scripture does God tell us that there is such a thing? Shouldn’t demons and false prophets delight instead in what is FALSE?! My brothers and sisters, there is too much at stake for us not to study the scriptures for ourselves. There is just too much at stake. Let’s do our own homework! The time to be mature is NOW. Praise, glory and dominion to the only true God and to His Lamb forever. Amen! 

How Do I Seek “First” the Kingdom of God? (Part 2 of 2)

Seek Kingdom first_2
What does “first” mean in Matthew 6:33?

So how do we explain the word “first” in Matthew 6, if there is no “second” as we argued in part 1? I am not a Greek scholar, and therefore I do not master the order of words in Greek sentences. Nevertheless, in light of the evidences already brought forth, I will postulate that Matthew 6:33 should have been translated:

Matthew 6:33 – But first seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Instead of “seek ye first” as found in just about all biblical translations, I believe we should understand “first seek ye”. There is a difference, and it is a significant one. When one says “seek ye first” the word “first” refers to the object to be sought (in Matthew 6, it is the kingdom of God and His righteousness). And we can ask…Seek ye first what? Answer: the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And because of that, logic dictates that what must come after should be “seek ye second this” (or something similar), which could also be followed by “seek ye third that”. “First”, “second” and “third” all refer to what needs to be sought after, the actual objects.

In stark contrast, when one says “first seek ye”, the word “first” refers to the action of seeking, not to the object to be sought after. And we can ask…First, do what? Answer: seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And therefore, in this case, what must come after needs not being another action of seeking (as in “seek ye second”). What comes second could be the outcome of performing the action seeking, or anything else for that matter. I believe this is precisely the meaning of Matthew 6:33: “First, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you”. There is one and only one thing to seek (God’s kingdom and His righteousness), and there is one resulting outcome for seeking that “one” thing (everything else will added to us).

So why does this matter?

I believe to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is so much easier to do when we realize that it is the only thing we are supposed to be doing. And yes, to be honest, this could be quite an unsettling statement.

Seek Kingdom first_4

But it is only the case because we have become deeply hardwired into being concerned about our own needs (ourselves, our families, our loved ones). Yet, God’s children should not be afraid by Matthew 6:33, at least if our interpretation is correct. Quite the contrary, to follow Jesus’ commandment of Matthew 6:33 is the best way to test and increase our reliance on God. This is how we fulfill our part of our relationship with our Father.

If King Solomon’s story is any indication, the promise that everything will be added to us as we focus on nothing but God is an absolute certainty: Our needs in all categories will be met. These needs we have are legitimate, and Jesus Himself acknowledges them in Matthew 6. But when we believe that Jesus has given us permission to seek them as long as we seek God first, that is when everything gets very complicated. Everything gets complicated because 1) we are left wrestling with the question on how to put God first in our lives (which is the reason why everyone has a different opinion on it) and 2) we are now confronted with Jesus’ rebuke (in the same chapter mind you) that it is impossible to serve two masters (Matthew 6: 24, 25) because we will eventually despise one of them. And if life has taught us anything, it is typically God we end up despising. So, “See ye first” or “First seek ye”? What is your take?

How Do I Seek “First” the Kingdom of God? (Part 1 of 2)

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Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have wrestled at least at some point with the question: How do I seek God first? Or How do I put God first in my life? For some, the answer is to make sure that the first action they take in the morning when they wake up is to pray, meditate, read the Bible or something of that nature…in other words, putting God first is putting Him first in the day (after all, Jesus Himself did that). For others, it means that before taking any decision, they lift the situation to God first (most likely in prayer). They are then peaceful in taking their decision simply because they “consulted” with God first, even though they may have not gotten an answer from Him (I am certainly guilty of that). Yet for others, it means never missing Church on Sunday, no matter what.
The reality is that if you ask 10,000 Christians what it means to seek God first, you will get 10,000 answers. And this fact is most certainly a clear indication of a serious problem. I will argue that how Matthew 6:33 is typically interpreted is the very source of much of the troubles those who want to serve God face in life. I will argue that Matthew 6:33 is not saying that God’s kingdom and His righteousness is the “first” thing we should seek, but that instead it is “the only thing” we should seek. And there is a “BIG” difference between these two interpretations.

The answer lies in Matthew 6:33 itself

Seek Kingdom first_3By stating that we should seek “first” the kingdom of God and his righteousness, it seems that Jesus is permitting us to seek other things as well, as long as the first thing we seek is God’s kingdom and righteousness. Indeed, if there is something to be sought “first”, then logic demands that, at least, there must be something to be sought “second”. And this understanding is arguably the most prevalent for most of us Christians. But isn’t this understanding flawed?
Look again at this verse. What is the result of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first? “All these things will absolutely (that is what “shall” means) be added unto us”. What things? The things listed throughout Matthew 6, which are everything us, human beings, typically seek in life: “what we shall eat, what we shall drink, what we shall put on”. So the obvious question is this: If “every” imaginable natural need we seek to satisfy in life will be “given” to us, what else is there to seek? Obviously nothing! Because something that is given does not need to be sought after…it is given. We see therefore that although Matthew 6:33 states “Seek ye first”, it actually gives no room for something else to be sought after.

The example of King Solomon: King Solomon became the wisest and richest man to ever live, and 2 Chronicles 1: 7-12 records how this came to be.

2 Chronicles 1: 7-12 – In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. 8 And Solomon said unto God, …10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? 11 And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12 Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.

Note that God was very pleased with King Solomon for two specific reasons: 1) he did not ask for any riches, etc. for himself and 2) his “sole” focus was on God’s business, His people! We shall see that most likely this is the very same thing Jesus is requiring of us in Matthew, that we forget ourselves and that instead we focus on God’s business. Now we know King Solomon indeed became “very” rich. But did he do anything in particular to become rich? Of course not! Wealth was “given” to Him by God. That does not mean that he did not sign treaties or negotiated whenever the opportunities presented themselves. But those opportunities should be understood as the fulfillment of the promise of God. Solomon had nothing to do with them per say! He became rich because God had promised that He will make him rich. I believe in Matthew, we are exhorted, commanded to have the same kind of “undivided” focus toward God’s business. After all, isn’t that the first commandment?

Mark 12:30 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

The parallel record of Luke 12:31: It is interesting to note that Luke 12:31, which conveys essentially the same message as Matthew 6:33, does not include the word “first”.

Luke 12:31 – But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Compared to Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31 has two notable omissions: the word “first” and the word “righteousness”. Why “righteousness” is not mentioned here is, I am sure, an entirely different topic, which is well beyond the scope of this article. However, that the word “first” is not mentioned here is particularly noteworthy for this study. In Luke, Jesus tells us simply to “seek the kingdom of God”. And from this record, it is rather evident that the kingdom of God is the only thing to be sought, since just as in Matthew, “everything” else will be added to us as we do so.

Some words of Wisdom: This is what King Solomon has to say, the man to whom God gave wisdom like to no other.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the “whole” duty of man.

To fear (or respect with reverence) God and to keep His commandments is the “whole” duty of man. There is nothing else that man is supposed to be doing other than respecting God and do His commandments. There clearly is perfect harmony between what King Solomon is saying and the position we are proposing here that the “only” thing man is to seek is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

So there are really two questions that come to mind: The first is how should we understand the word “first” in Matthew 6:33, since there is no indication that this word was added by bible translators as it is sometimes the case. The second is what are the implications of what we argued in this article? We address these in part 2.

 

Are You Plugged?

Plugged-InYou have heard of the parable of the sower before. It is recorded in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13. We will not copy it here because of its length. But essentially, you have a sower who went out to sow (Mark 4:3). Some seeds fall by the way side (verse 4) and the fowls of the air devour them. Some fall on stony ground (verse 5), then grow immediately because there is no much dirt. However, when the sun comes up, they die quickly. Others fall among thorns (verse 7), but they are chocked by them when those thorns grow up. And some fall on good ground (verse 8), and end up yielding fruits in abundance and even superabundance. We shall call them “way side”, “stony ground”, “among thorns” and “good ground”.

Our Lord Jesus explains this parable in Mark 4:14-20. In all four cases, the ground refers to people, the seed is the Word of God, and all four types of people “hear” the Word (verses 15, 16, 18 and 20). However, only two of the four types (“stony ground” and “good ground”) actually “receive” the Word.

This said, a little study of the two verbs “to hear” and “to receive” (or “to accept” depending on the version of your bible) reveals that much of the real meaning of this parable has been lost in most English translations.

It’s about HOW you Hear!

Mark 4: 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

When looking at how the verb “to hear” is conjugated in each of the four cases, we find that only in the case of the good ground (verse 20) is this verb in the “Present Indicative Active”. In other words, this is the only group of people that hear and keep hearing continuously the Word of God! These people are plugged to Christ!

In stark contrast, the same verb is in the “Aorist” tense in all of the first three groups (“way side”, “stony ground” and “among thorns”). This tense means that this action of hearing is not continuous or habitual. The reason for them not producing fruit is because they do not keep on hearing the Word of Christ.

So what about the stony ground? The only other group mentioned as receiving the Word?

Mark 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

Not only did they “receive” it, but our Lord says that they receive it “immediately” and “with gladness”. But then our Lord says that they “immediately” stumble when tribulation comes because they have no root (verse 17). Ouch! What went wrong?

It’s about HOW you Receive!

Are you plugged2See, we already established that the first problem with all the groups except good ground is that they do not make it a habit to hear the Word. In the worst case, they hear it one time and that is it. But now focusing on the verb “to receive”, we see that in the case of stony ground (verse 16), the greek verb is lambano, while in the case of good ground it is the greek verb para-dechomai. In a nutshell, these two verbs focus on two “very” different aspects of the reception process.

Lambano emphasizes the manifestation of what has been received while para-dechomai emphasizes the strong and loving acceptance of what has been received. An example of lambano is found in Acts 19, where Paul ends up laying His hand on some people so they may receive (lambano) the Holy Spirit.

Acts 19:2,6  He said unto them, Have ye received (lambano) the Holy Ghost since ye believed?… 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

There was a clear manifestation/evidence of the reception: They spoke with tongues and prophesied. In the case of the stony ground, the manifestation is that they immediately start to speak or preach what they have just been taught. How do we know? Verse 17 says that it is for “the Word’s sake that they face tribulations”. They do not just get tribulations for any reason. They are attacked specifically on their faith. But that faith is weak because they do not continue to hear! They are batteries and they run out, they are not plugs!

Para-dechomai is actually a stronger form of the verb “decomai” and it is used only 6 times in the New Testament. One of the other five is this great record in Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:6 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives (para-dechomai).

Can you sense the intense love God has for us? How He receives us? And by the way, this is also in the present tense, meaning, the Lord continually receives us! Wow!! Want to talk about being accepted by Him? Here you have it!

So what’s the deal here? “Good ground” hears and keeps on hearing the Word. As a result, he starts to accept and receive this Word, becoming one with it, loving it, making it his very own. He cannot get enough of it! So he never forgets that he needs to stay plugged, and as a result, he produces fruits in the most natural of ways, and even in great abundance. Stony ground hears it once, gets extremely excited. Heck, it seems to be the most excited of all! But then he takes the little he received and runs with it. What a pity! Why do you leave? You are battery on your own, and soon after, you are out of juice!

What is the takeaway? Stay plugged! Keep on hearing! Let’s not focus on what we can do, like stony ground did. The Word calls that our works. Instead, let’s focus on being close to Him, simply listening to Him, day in and day out (2 Timothy 1:9). Bearing fruits is not about exerting effort of our own, but about letting His Word dwell in us richly! He who drinks from Him (i.e. He who hears Him) will never thirst and out of him will flow rivers of living waters (John 7: 37, 38 – you want to talk about producing fruits?!).  

A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 5)

The “Quantity” argument. Click here for part 4

It is very interesting to observe that virtually all of the newer bible translations clearly side with the quantity argument in verse 6. One may verify this by visiting a site such as BibleGateway.com. Does this reflect a greater understanding of the original Word of God…or a greater distortion of It? Some of the older ones (such as the highly respected King James Version) do to, but certainly not to the extent of newer ones.

Now, if the quantity argument is so prevalent today, then it must addressed head-on. In other words, let’s now suppose that verse 6 does indeed speak of quantity. As we shall see, this passage then becomes a very complex and incomplete piece of scripture!

To make this verse speaks of quantity paves the way for all kind of confusion…and abuses!
Here we go. Is verse 6 speaking of quantity in absolute terms or in relative terms? Where is the cutoff point between sparingly and generously? It is at 5% of what you have, 10%, or 20%? If there is one such cutoff point, why is it not mentioned here? Here is something else…what if you give cheerfully (as verse 7 encourages), but only 2% of what you have…does your giving overrides the quantity to give requirement? And what if you give grudgingly (as verse 7 discourages), but a full 70% of what you have…does your giving overrides the attitude in giving requirement? There is yet something else. What if you and someone else are to give a certain combined amount, and whatever the other gives, you will give the rest…Did you give the right amount even if the other gave 95% of the amount and you 5%? And would not this last case imply that the quality of your giving is conditioned by the giving of another? Since when your standing with God is dependent on someone else’s?

To make this verse speaks of quantity make the first part of verse 7 irrelevant and downright confusing!

2 Corinthians 9:6, 7 –But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity;

According to verse 7, each one is to give as he purposes in his heart. But if that is the proper way to give, why are we being warned just before (verse 6) that giving little will have negative consequences? If verse 6 indeed speaks of quantity, then it effectively makes the first past of verse 7 completely irrelevant, and even – dare we say – very confusing. That is because the only correct amount to give, which is “much” was already stressed in verse 6. Who cares what one purposes in his or her heart…just give much, and you will right in the sight of God!

If there is a reference to quantity, it is in verse 7, not verse 6!
If there is one place in this passage referring to quantity, it is precisely the first part of verse 7. And the quantity requirement is that it should be the quantity one purposes in his heart, period! That is the quantity to give. And look, the verse then goes right back to the motivation in the giving, the whole purpose of this entire section.

It is our belief that there is simply no room for the quantity argument in verse 6. The very small sample of problematic questions that were raised in this article gives us a glimpse at the kind of abuses the quantity argument permits. This is the case because if the Bible does not answer those questions, then it effectively delegates this responsibility to our church leaders…and that is where all hell brake loose!  The fact that most newer bible translations side with quantity clearly reflect the deliberate choice our so called bible scholars and authorities have made. And we can understood why! And these are the bibles you and I read! How sad! How v-e-r-r-r-r-y sad!
Anyway…what’s next?  Well, after a brief look at the immediate context of this passage, precisely, verse 5, which further supports the motivation in giving argument of this series, we shall conclude with a reflection of the implication of this study. 

A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 4)

Alright. So we essentially completed our review of the second part of verse 6, and we concluded from part 3 that it says…

2 Corinthians 9:6 –…and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings.

It is now time to turn to the first part…

2 Corinthians 9:6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly…
Interestingly, this part does not suffer from any of the two issues we identified in the second, namely, the poor translation of a word and the outright omission of another. But what we will argue is that the issue at a hand is simply a matter of interpretation of the adverb sparingly.

Sparingly…what means thou?
The Greek word for “sparingly” is pheidomenós and it comes from the verb pheidomai which means to spare, or to abstain. A search of this adverb in Merriam-Webster dictionary gives sparing, which is the act of giving or sharing as little as possible. It also refers to less plentiful than what is normal, necessary, or desirable. There is certainly a strong reference to quantity in this definition, and that is precisely how it is mostly understood in verse 6.

But there is something rather peculiar about sparingly. It turns out that 2 Corinthians 9:6  is the only place in the New Testament where the word pheidomenós is used. The implications of this fact is that there are essentially two options when it comes to defining this term. The first is to work with a secular dictionary such Merriam-Webster’s. The second is to stay right here in this verse and explain it from here. We are of the belief that the best option is to stay right here, in this verse.  So here we go!

A little bit of Set theory from Mathematics, shall we!?

IF we agree that verse 6 is
1) made of two distinct statements (one about sowing sparingly and the other about sowing on the basis on blessings), and that
2) these two statements are mutually exclusive (meaning that both cannot happen at the same time, i.e. one cannot sow sparingly and at the same time sow on the basis of blessings…it has to be one or the other), and that
3) these two statements are exhaustive (meaning that there is no other way to sow but these two ways)

THEN we can only conclude that,
The two statements of verse 6 are the exact opposite of each other.

The implication of this seemingly obvious conclusion is actually quite profound. The implication is that understanding of one of the two statements automatically leads to understanding the other. From part 3, the second part of verse 6 is quite clear… and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings. Could not be clearer! Now, if we agree that the first part of the verse is the exact opposite of the second, then the first part must mean… he who “does not” sow on the basis of blessings will reap “something else” than blessings.

So what does that all mean?
The whole purpose of verse 6 is to state God’s perspective regarding giving. There are only two ways to give: either one gives 1) for the “sole” and “unique” purpose of blessing someone else or one gives 2) for “any other” reason than simply blessing someone else. Please note that the opposite of “on the basis of blessing” is any other reason than to bless.  “On the basis of cursing” certainly falls in that category, but so does “on the basis of money”, “…of fame”, “… of greed”, …of praise, “…of obligation“…of constraintetc. 

Just like “on the basis of blessings”, “sparingly” refers to the intention behind the giving, not the quantity given. But the intention in this case is any intention other than just blessing the other.

The argument in this article is that sparingly is nothing more than the opposite of on the basis of blessing. And because of it, understanding it properly should really not be a problem. The problem is that this simple understanding gets completely obscured when the second part of verse 6 is not properly translated in the first place. 

In addition, the fact that verse 6 is the only place in the New Testament where this adverb is used should cause us to be extra-vigilant when it comes to interpreting it. The argument postulated is that because of it, the best place for its interpretation should be this very verse  which is the immediate context of its use  rather than some secular source. And this allowed us to conclude that sparingly refers to the motivation behind the giving, to the exact same extent that on the basis of blessing does.  

Yet, one may ask…But what if, despite all the arguments presented in this series, there is still room for the notion of quantity in verse 6?. Could we be wrong all the way in believing that motivation is the one and only focus? We shall investigate that route in the next article. Indeed…“Suppose these terms really refer to quantity…”.

A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 2)

In this series, we are making the argument that, in 2 Corinthians 9: 6 and 7, God does not make at all reference to the quantity one gives. In quite a contrast, we are arguing that the sole focus (and emphasis) of this passage is on the intention behind the giving. Click here for Part 1.

Are you ready for some Bible translations?
Let’s revisit verse 6, but now looking at not one, but three (3) popular bible translations: The New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

2 Corinthians 9:6 [NIV] – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NKJV] – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NLT] – Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

We see that verse 6 identifies two courses of actions leading to opposite results. The first – sowing sparingly – results in reaping sparingly, while the other – sowing bountifully – results in reaping bountifully. These two actions are claimed to be making reference to the quantity sown: “sparingly” versus “bountifully” respectively. In fact, the NLT version makes this specific claim very explicit with its translation: “planting a few seeds versus planting generously (in other words, planting many seeds)”. There is no doubt that the three Bible versions refer to how much one sows.

But wait…what is that Greek word again?
See, the word that was translated “bountifully” in the NKJV and “generously” in the other two versions is the Greek word eulogia, which means blessing. This word – eulogia – actually appears in 15 other places throughout the New Testament. And in most of them, it is translated (guess what)…“blessing”. Let us look at just two such instances (Galatians 3:14 and Hebrew 6:7) in both the NKJV and the NLT.

Galatians 3:14 [NKJV] – That the blessing (eulogia) of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:14 [NLT] – Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing (eulogia) he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
Hebrews 6:7 [NKJV] – For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing (eulogia) from God.
Hebrews 6:7 [NLT] – When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing (eulogia).

Hum…Interesting!
Did you notice that even the NLT translates this word as “blessing” in both instances!? And actually, it turns out that save only one (1) other place (Romans 16:18), 2 Corinthians 9 is the only place where this word eulogia is not translated “blessing”. Therefore, in the face of such exception, one must ask…WhyWhy is eulogia not translated here as “blessing” as it is everywhere else? This fact alone should cause us to look further into what appears to be a blatant discrepancy.

In all of those places where the word “blessing” is used, what is highlighted is the good intention of the one giving. Simply the intention to bless, not more and not less. In the case of Galatians 3 and Hebrews 6, the one who gives is God. When we read these passages, we cannot help but realize that what is received is something good, and that it was given with the best of intentions…it was given, literally…to bless. That is the focus in those passages.

How much quantity you said it was?
The one giving gives because he or she knows how much it will bless the recipient. There is simply “no” indication of the quantity given other than it must be the right quantity. Let us think about it for a minute. Back in Hebrews 6:7, how much quantity of rain does the earth receive from God? Does it receive a lot of it? We all know that too much rain could be very bad. What about a little of it? We all know that too little rain can be very bad as well. So what is the right answer, because it is a fact that the earth does receive some rain?! The only right answer pertaining to quantity is that the earth receives the right, perfect quantity of rain. This bears repeating. The earth receives the right quantity of rain from God. And being the right quantity is one reason it is a blessing, otherwise, it would not be! Too little and the earth would starve, too much and it would saturate.

Galatians 3:14 is even more profound. What was the quantity of the blessing Abraham was promised? That’s a good one huh! All we can say with assurance is that it was the right quantity…that’s all, the right quantity! Therefore, we see from these records that by its very definition, a blessing already embodies within itself the notion of right quantity. The right quantity is one of the attributes that makes a blessing what it is…a blessing.

Two major points here.
One: Bible translations. They introduce in their own rights a host of issues, as was already illustrated previously. Here as well, it is manifestly no different. None of the three popular Bible versions cited here used the right word…blessing! Why?
Two: Nature of a blessing. The different passages referenced here demonstrated that a blessing, by its very nature, includes the notion of right quantity. When it is a blessing, the quantity given is the right one. So what’s next? Well, it is time to take the wrong word out (bountifully or generously) and plug in its stead the right one (blessing) and see what will happen…