What is my tithe worth? (Part 4 of 4)

Balance scale We have reached the concluding part of our short study of our Lord’s teaching on the subject of tithing. And we are inviting you to meditate strongly on this question: If how God perceives our tithe depends strongly on our attitude toward the weightier matters of the Law (judgment, faith, mercy), to the point where it would better for us not to offer any tithe if we do not practice those matters, why would Jesus simply state in Matthew 23:23… “you should keep tithing” as if there was no pre-condition for doing it? Clearly, if we understand verse 26, Jesus indicated quite clearly that there is a precondition to tithing…the inside should be cleansed “first”, otherwise our tithing is an abomination…it is the clean cup filled with everything that is despicable to God. Yet, when we read verse 23 in most English translations, there is no pre-condition to tithing, but simply a statement that we should do both: the weightier matters of the Law and the tithing.

Let us reason my people:

The dependency, and therefore the order of things, is not conveyed in most translations. And if such pre-condition did not exist (as these translations claim), then it stands to reason that the scribes and Pharisees were at least doing something right…they were tithing! So why didn’t Jesus at least applaud these people for being so adept at tithing, even if there were more important thing they were neglecting? We contend that for them to tithe so religiously actually “added” insult to injury. It probably would have been better for them not to tithe at all, just like you would rather have nothing to drink, than being served filthy sewage water on a perfectly clean glass. Isn’t this precisely the reason our Lord calls them hypocrites?

We shall at this point suggest the reader to look at a similar record in Luke 11:37-42, to verify that our Lord Jesus gave again essentially the same lesson. He said essentially …“Focus on the weightier matters, and behold…behold, all things…all things are clean unto you (yes, the inside and the outside)”. A quick recap of that record…people were supposed to wash hands before eating; Jesus comes to eat, and does not wash His hand. The Pharisee who invited Him to eat is flabbergasted by that, and that prompted Jesus to give him the teaching of his lifetime. In verse 41, He said the same peculiar thing…“give of the inside and everything (including the outside) will become clean”. As in Matthew 23, it is never the cleaning of the outside that makes the outside clean, it is the cleaning of the inside that makes the outside clean. As we discussed in the previous part, the inside sanctifies the outside. Puzzling and very interesting! Then He goes into verse 42 and denounces again how they (the Pharisees) had all this tithing practice completely backward.

Right debate/Wrong debateTithe Worth_Conclusion 1 

The debate over whether we should tithe or not today is the debate of whether the tiny mosquito  should still be considered an unclean animal or now considered clean, all that while there is actually a camel, the largest unclean animal, standing next to us. WHO CARES ABOUT THE MOSQUITO!? THERE IS A CAMEL AROUND FOR GOD’S SAKE!  If there is to be a debate, it should be about finding the most effective ways to ensure that we never swallow a camel, as our Lord put it so vividly. Are you following me my dear people? What are we going to do with the CAMEL…that is the debate! So, is it “good” to tithe? Well, obviously the answer to that is that…it depends…it depends on the quality of life we live. If we endeavor to live righteously (what we have been called to do), showing mercy where mercy is due, acting on faith instead of doubting God, being just and fair whenever and wherever we can, THEN, only then is our tithe (if we make it) of a sweet-smelling aroma to our Father. Tithing is a cherry on a cake, but it is NOT the cake, and never will be the cake. Yet, many of us treat our tithe as if it is the cake. Many of us believe that we are standing “right” with God because at least…we are very faithful at tithing. But think about this, when the cake is good, the cherry is that little extra that goes beyond, by showing the one receiving the cake just how much you care about him. But when the cake is filthy, that very same cherry changes role: it is now the insult to injury!

Now imagine this: You practice judgment, faith and mercy. What if you tithe, but are irregular in it because of honest circumstances that comes up in life? Then my friend, God says…IT IS OK! That “apparently” imperfect tithing lifestyle is sanctified by your walk in life!  What a comfort my people! What a comfort! Let us examine ourselves, and determine whether we endeavor to uphold those weightier matters of the Law. If we do not, then it is our conviction based on this study that we are better off not tithing at all, for God is not mocked! Allow us to cite from the Amplified Bible.

Galatians 6:7 – Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.)… For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap.

We often hear this verse in the context of how faithfully we should be tithing or give to the church, because God is not mocked. “If we don’t tithe, we are stealing God, and God cannot be fooled”. But anyone who spends a little time on the context of this verse will see readily that God is emphasizing instead the practice of the far most important matters: judgment, mercy and faith. The context is about fulfilling the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 – Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

God is not fooled by our tithe people. He is not fooled by any other things we use as substitute for what truly matters to Him. This is what this passage is saying!

My people, may my God, my Father, forgive me if I misinterpreted all these sayings from our Lord Jesus-Christ. BUT WHY ON EARTH ARE WE NOT BEING TAUGHT THESE THINGS? Have we become so consumed with our well-being or the well-being of our church that we cannot fathom the idea of teaching people what is true about tithing? How are we NOT hypocrites! And how will we not have to answer to God? What is giving 10%, 12%,…,20%…or 30% of our income to our church  if we do not practice those heavier matters? It is an abomination! That’s what it is! Who do we think we are fooling? We get praise from men instead of seeking God’s praise! Our tithing, giving, abundant sharing, etc. (however you want to call it) was never meant to be, and will never substitute for what really matters to God. Your tithing and mine, my brethren, is sanctified by our walk, BY OUR WALK MY PEOPLE…OUR WALK! Without the walk…forget the tithe!

Listen to our Lord Himself: Stop chasing away the mosquito while your are swallowing a camel! Stop looking like a polished sepulcher while your are full of dead bones. Stop being a cup that is perfectly clean outside while you are full of self-indulgence inside. And again we ask: How can one focus on those important matters and not have a life of giving, helping his or her brother? Do you see how focusing on what matters to God automatically takes care of everything. Let your church despise you because you are not tithing…but rush to seek God’s praise, by doing those things that are pleasing unto Him. Ask God, and you might just find that there is far more impactful things you can do for His kingdom with your money than giving it to the church.

We have a challenge for You:

If you have been thinking a bit too highly about your tithe, we have a challenge for you: Stop tithing for 6 months, and during those 6 months, always ask yourself how everyday you are endeavoring to please God. If you want, stop tithing for the whole year 2014 altogether, and ask yourself how you are being a servant of your Christ during that time. At the end of the period, evaluate your life as a son and a servant.

So what is Matthew 23:23 saying most likely?

We shall conclude by drawing a contrast between what we believe Jesus said (a loose paraphrase, so please don’t call it a translation…it is just “how” we understand it base on our study), and what one of the popular English translations states.

Matthew 23:23 [Our understanding] – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and you have neglected the weightier – the more important – matters of the law. I am speaking of judgment, mercy, and faith: these are the absolutely necessary things you were supposed to be doing; yes, those ones, the heavier matters of the law, you should not neglect.

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.

Father in heaven, forgive me if I have not spoken what is right concerning You, Your Son, and Your Holy Word. For while many may not share the view of this study, I did not see how your Holy Word speaks otherwise. You are merciful, for you see what is in man’s heart, as you are the searcher of it. Inspect my heart heavenly Father and judge me according to Your mercy and Your wisdom. If this writing is true to your Word, then let our hearts be convicted; Father, lift weights from the shoulders of the weary because of false teachings. And may we experience Godly sorrow if we have offered unto You what is undrinkable, and may You forgive us, for some of us did it out of ignorance. You are a Merciful God, Heavenly Father! May we experience Godly sorrow if we did not teach what was right. Cause us Father to focus on the weightier matters of the Law, for in those you delight, and for as we do so we will naturally fulfill the lighter matters. Oh Father, be merciful unto me, Your son, and the servant of Your Lamb, Jesus-Christ. Amen.

What is my tithe worth? (Part 3 of 4)

PoorThe second of the three illustrations Jesus-Christ gave is noteworthy because it is the only one in which He states the correct way after portraying just how wrong the scribes and pharisees were in their practice. This article focuses on that correction, and specifically on the structure of the statements it is made of. There seems to be at least two concepts being called on in this verse: Order and Sanctification, which we believe are important because at the very least, they bring further evidence that Matthew 23:23 has most likely been mistranslated.

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.

In short, as we argued in our primer to this serieswe find it hard to believe that, at the end of this verse, Jesus-Christ said to the scribes and Pharisees “…and make sure you keep tithing” as it is often claimed. Our initial suspicion stemmed from the the fact that one of the Greek words (kakeinos) was made to have a completely different meaning in this verse (and in its counterpart Luke 11:42) than in all the other places it is used in the New Testament (all 20 of them).

We shall see that order and sanctification bring another unique perspective on the practice of tithing: that its worth is relative (i.e. that its worth is exclusively dependent on something else). Sanctification is essentially the principle of setting something apart from the rest. And in a biblical context it often refers to making something clean, acceptable to God. God’s children, for example, are sanctified by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 13:12). Order sets precedence and implies unidirectional dependency, which simply states that object B depends on object A, but Object A does not depend on object B.

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.

The first segment sets the Order 

Let us realize that our Lord says “…cleanse first that which is within the cup“. This statement sets a specific order. Cleansing that which is withing the cup “is” the priority, as this should be performed “first”. This clearly establishes a strong dependency between the inside and the outside. The outside and the inside are NOT independent. Furthermore, the Lord tells us that this dependency is unidirectional. Tithe Worth_part 5It is the outside of the cup which depends on the inside. The inside however, does not depend on the outside, since it comes first. And if you believe, like us, that precision is key in interpreting the scriptures, then you will notice that there is actually a double emphasis on this directional dependency, because of the concept of sanctification.

The second segment speaks of Sanctification

Remembering our context, cleansing that which is withing the cup is the act of practicing judgment, mercy and faith.  But what is truly intriguing to us is the structure of the second half of the verse. Note that our Lord did not say “cleanse first…, and then cleanse the outside also”. He said, “cleanse first…, that the outside of them may be clean also”. In this context, the state of the outside is how we practice our tithe. According to our Lord, the outside is automatically made clean because the inside IS clean, not because we are purposely cleaning it! It is not cleaning the outside that makes it clean. It is cleaning the inside that does it! How profound! Frankly, we believe there is even more to it that we think we understand. But one thing is sure…It is the cleanness of the inside of the cup which makes even the dirty-looking cup (on the outside) worthwhile. In other words, the outside of the cup is sanctified (made clean, made acceptable) by the inside. Matter of fact, wasn’t this the very reason you found the cold fresh water served in a dirty-looking glass acceptable? Literally speaking, the cup was still dirty outside…we did not clean it once it was handed to us. But we stopped paying attention to how dirty it was because we realize that inside it contained the freshest water! All of the sudden, to us who were really thirsty, the cup no longer looked dirty…it was sanctified by the water inside!

Interestingly, Jesus taught specifically on this concept of sanctification in the immediate context preceding the pivotal verse of Matthew 23:23 we are studying. And we believe that teaching carried into what He subsequently said about tithing.

Matthew 23:17 – Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
Matthew 23:19 – Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

In the two instances above, our Lord was showing again how far off the scribes and the Pharisees really were. They placed emphasis on the gold of the temple and the gift on the altar rather than the temple and the altar themselves, respectively. He taught that the worth of the gold of the temple is precisely the fact that it is “on” the temple; it is not the fact that it is gold. The temple sanctifies it and therefore makes it worthwhile.

Tithe Worth_part 4

The worth of the gift placed upon the altar is precisely the fact that it is “on” the altar. We believe it is the exact same logic our Lord used to teach us on tithing: the worth of our tithe – the outside of our cup – is precisely based on the fact that we practice judgment, mercy, and faith in our everyday lives. These are the things that actually matter, without which our tithe is completely worthless.

It is that quality of life as God defines it that makes our gift of tithing such a pleasant gift. Just like the temple and the altar, it is the weightier matters of the law we should be concerned about. Just like the gift is pointless without the altar, or the gold without the temple, tithing is pointless without first practicing the more important matters of the Law. And in fact, it is very deceiving when we practice it this way.

However, the deeper implication of sanctification is that even if for some reason we were not able to make that tithe – this is our cup being somewhat dirty – our offer will still be accepted because it will be sanctified – rendered acceptable – by us practicing faith, judgment and mercy. Sanctification requires at least two elements in order to take place: The object being sanctified and the object sanctifying. And the object sanctifying has to be greater than the object being sanctified otherwise it cannot sanctify it. Think of the blood of Jesus-Christ. God’s children are sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Because His blood is greater than man, it can sanctify man. Man is a sinner, yet He is washed, cleaned, rendered acceptable to God by the blood of Christ. It is not by his own works that he is saved. Isn’t this precisely the meaning of being saved by Grace and not by works? Does not the scriptures call us foolish when we seek to attain salvation by works (Galatians 3:1-3)?

It is time to reason

Back in the Old testament, the dirty-looking cup was the tithe of the people who were not observing it strictly, as opposed to scribes and Pharisees who could not be more perfect at it. This teaching of Jesus-Christ must have been a true breath of fresh air for some of the people of the day, because He was essentially saying that they were actually “Ok” with God if they were practicing judgment, mercy and faith, although they were not perfect in their tithing. How much more do you suppose this is true today? We may be poor, late on bills, drowned in debt! How my people, how on earth can one give a tithe when he has nothing? Have you realized that while we may not be able to tithe because of financial circumstances, we can always practice faith, judgment and mercy? Isn’t this fact the very fingerprint of the masterful design of our God, that those things which happen to truly matter to Him are the ones for which there is absolutely no circumstance on this earth that can prevent us from practicing them? Under what circumstance is it impossible to practice faith? Under what circumstance is it impossible to be merciful? Under what circumstance is it impossible to practice justice? Yes, the world would like us to believe that in some cases, they are impossible to practice. And we are certainly not saying here that they are always easy to practice. It is difficult to be merciful sometimes. And sometimes it is difficult to keep our faith (that is why we ought to intercede for each other). But it is a lie to state that there are cases when we cannot practice them. On the other hand – and in stark contrast – it is easy to find a situation where one cannot tithe: No income, that’s simple!

But here lies the greatness of God: How is it possible to practice faith, judgment and mercy, without giving? Our conjecture is that this is precisely what our Lord was saying in Matthew 23:26…cleanse the inside and behold the outside is clean too! Tithing is a form of giving. Giving is the far larger subject of tithing. As we focus on acting on faith, being fair in our judgment and being merciful to our neighbor, we will find ourselves giving without even trying. Let’s not get caught in religion! No practice of tithing, no matter how faithful it is, will ever serve as substitute for practicing the weightier matters of the Law. The cherry on the cake only makes senses when the cake is present and is good. A cherry on nothing, or worse, a cherry on a rotten cake does the exact opposite of what a cherry is supposed to do. Oh how wonderful is our God, for His ways are far above our ways! In our conclusion in part 4, we shall reflect on these things we saw so far, and shall return to the pivotal statement of Matthew 23:23, looking at what we believe it is really saying. May the very God of peace sanctify us wholly; and may our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

What is my tithe worth? (Part 2 of 4)

after application of whitewashWe 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

Coffee mug_4

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. Tithe Worth_part 2And 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.

What is my tithe worth? (Part 1 of 4)

Glass of waterLet’s get something out of the way right now: We are not against giving…there is simply no Christian lifestyle without giving. Nevertheless, the question raised in the title of this series regarding our tithe is a legitimate one (please click here to read the introduction to this series). Think about the last time you selected a gift for a loved one. Chances are, one of the major reasons you made that particular choice is the fact that you knew it would be of great value to your loved one. You made that choice because you knew just how much it would please that person. Therefore, when it comes to offering our tithe to God, wouldn’t it be nice to know just how much God values it? Is He always pleased? Is there such a case where we might be better off not tithing at all?

Now, Malachi 3:8-10 is arguably the most cited verse when it comes to speaking of the value of our tithe. But after a meaningful study with a friend, we are now coming to the conclusion that it is probably Jesus Himself, our Lord, who gave the most specific and detailed information we could ever need regarding the practice of tithing.

But first, picture the following: You are “very, very” thirsty; you are dehydrated! Now suppose a loved one, aware of your need, is about to bring you one of the following: 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 filled with truly fresh and cold water, 3) a perfectly clean glass, but filled with truly filthy sewage water, and 4) nothing, absolutely nothing! What would be your order of preference? Please keep your selection in mind, and we shall return to it later in the series.

In this series, we focus primarily on the context of Matthew 23:23, starting from verse 16 and ending in verse 28. But specifically, we will discuss verses 24 to 28. The reason for looking at the context is two-fold. First, it is to highlight what we believe are further evidences that verse 23 was translated incorrectly, as we concluded in the primer to this series. Essentially based on our study, we believe that in the conclusion of that verse, Jesus was simply emphasizing that the scribes and Pharisees should not be neglecting the weightier matters of the Law. We do not believe, as opposed to what most English translations imply, that Jesus stated “…and make sure you tithe” as well, although it is understood that tithing was part of the Law. Second, it is to lay our reasoning for believing that there is such thing as an abominable tithe, and that Jesus Himself spoke of it. This discussion will touch upon both aspects simultaneously.

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 undone.

Verses 24 to 27 of Matthew 23 are – without a doubt – figures of speech. And we believe our Lord stated them to emphasize what He said in verse 23, by giving very graphic and vivid imageries pertaining to the seriousness of what He was accusing the scribes and the Pharisees of: That while they were strictly observing the practice of tithing, they were neglecting the weightier matters of the Law. Frankly, just by reading verse 23, I could not determine just how much heavier (i.e. more important) the other matters of the Law are. Was Jesus speaking of a 50 lbs. versus 75 lbs. type of relationship or was He speaking of 1 lb. versus 10,000 lbs. type of scenario? Well, no need to guess, as He answers us very clearly in the next verse.

Tithe Worth_part 1

Measuring the scale of uncleanness

In verse 24, Jesus states:

Matthew 23:24 – Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

This verse provides a scale ranging from a gnat (a type of mosquito) to a camel. The gnat was essentially the smallest unclean animal while the camel was one – if not the – largest unclean animal (Hey, I got this last piece of information from the Amplified Bible:)). Now, no one can literally swallow a camel, so

obviously, it is a figure of speech (a metaphor?). And we can definitely agree that this is very disturbing imagery! According to Jesus, their religious and meticulous observance of the practice of tithing was equivalent of them purifying themselves of the smallest unclean thing that existed…a mosquito. On the other hand, them neglecting the weightier matters of the Law was equivalent to them “swallowing” an entire camel, the largest unclean animal! Could our Lord be more graphic? This is not a 50 lbs. versus 75 lbs. type of scenario…it is a 1 ounce to a million pound type of case Jesus was speaking of. Next to a camel, you can’t really see a mosquito…so small and insignificant it is. By giving this imagery, our Lord was showing to the scribes and the Pharisees just how far off they were in their thinking and behavior!

This verse alone should give all of us “serious” pause as to how we – each of us – perceive our own tithing! Do we see our tithing the same way our Lord does? How does our diligence to observe the weightier  (now we know how truly heavier) matters of the Law  judgment mercy and faith  compare to our diligence toward tithing? Do we perhaps, as the scribes and Pharisees of old, have a false sense of confidence in our spiritual standing, or do we see ourselves to be much better than they ever were? Our Lord Jesus tells us plainly that there are matters that are far, far, far more important in our Father’s eyes. Do we see those matters the same way our Father sees them? Perhaps it’s time for us to reconsider how we measure our Christian walk. To God be the Glory…majesty without end!

What is my tithe worth? (An Introduction)

Balance scaleThis is the introduction to a short series on the subject of tithing. Now, just by the title, some of you may already be thinking… “enough of this subject already”! But please bear with us for a moment. Yes, it is a widely debated topic in the Christian community and it is a very sensitive one too. And indeed, we were very mindful of and sensitive to these realities as we approached this topic. Undoubtedly the one question most debates attempt to answer is whether or not we should be tithing today, and there are – readily available – plenty of views on the subject and well documented research to support each of them.

Therefore, the obvious question is…why writing another series on the subject if so much is already available? Our hope is that the perspective we adopted in this series will increase to some extent our knowledge on the subject. It did for us, but ultimately you will be the judge. We believe that the perspective we adopted here may differentiate itself from many of the good discussions on two fronts: First, it approaches the subject by focusing “exclusively” on what our Lord Jesus-Christ Himself said about it.  For instance, Malachi 3:8-10 – a hall of fame passage of scriptures on the subject – has not been used. Second, this perspective led us to the potentially controversial conclusion that the debate over “whether or not we should be tithing” is the wrong debate to begin with.

NOTE: Please note that this series states “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.

But before delving into the four articles which make up this series, we saw it fit to state right away – in no particular order – some of the main conclusions we have reached in this study. The first is that Jesus-Christ is arguably the One who gave the largest and most specific details on the subject. This was a surprise to us. The second is that we strongly believe that Jesus-Christ has been misquoted in most English translations both in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. However, the implications – which we believe are very severe as we shall illustrate – may not be that obvious from a simple casual reading of those passages. We did touch upon this translation issue in our previous article, and here we are bringing what we believe are further evidence which support this claim. The third is that tithing is – from a spiritual perspective – absolutely nowhere as important as most of us may have been led to believe. Tithing is actually an icing on a cake, but it is “never” the cake itself. The fourth is that a logical deduction from the third conclusion is that to focus on the question of whether or not we should be tithing today is to focus on the wrong question. The fifth is that it follows from this previous point that a significantly more important question is whether it is good to tithe. And to that question – it may surprise some – we came to the conclusion that the answer is…it depends! And it turns out that our Lord Himself is very clear regarding why the answer is…it depends!. Lastly, we also concluded that there is such a thing as a tithe that is truly abominable; the kind of tithe that one would be better off not giving at all. And we believe that because of a lack of proper education on the subject, we offer such despicable tithe more often than we would dare to imagine.

As a last note, we would recommend that you read our previous articles on the subject (if you have not done so), which were written to serve as primers to this series: “Five facts about tithing…and Jesus!” And “Tithing: When we misquote our Lord Jesus-Christ”. Ok…ready? Please click here for Part 1.

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!