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.

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 3)

…Ready to plug some words where they belong? Ready to read “blessings” instead of “bountifully” or “generously”? Here we go! Click here for part 2.

2 Corinthians 9: 6 He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows “blessings” will also reap “blessings”.

Now that we did it, let us examine the verse for a minute. Read it carefully, and you will probably realize that it is not structurally correct. That is because the first part, using an adverb (sparingly) speaks of how (how…much?) to sow, while the second part, using a noun (blessings) speaks of what to sow. In other words, as currently written, one can easily make the argument that it is possible to sow blessings “sparingly”, which would readily highlight the problem with the structure of this sentence.

But this is where it gets very interesting…
Of the two occurrences of the word “blessings” in this verse, the Greek text actually has one additional word just before the first one, but not before the second. The Greek word in question is epi. So, the structure of the verse is actually as follows…

2 Corinthians 9: 6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows epi” blessings will also reap blessings.

So what is epi? It means “on”, “to” or “on the basis of”. Verse 6 therefore reads:

2 Corinthians 9:6He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings.

Now this sentence is structurally sound, because the two parts speak of the same thing: how to sow! How amazing! And in case you wonder, we shall see that it is not “how much” either. So what are we seeing? All three bible versions (and may be more) not only changed a word (blessing), but also deleted one (on the basis of)! We have a double jeopardy, yay!!

The meaning of the second statement (…and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings) could not be more different than what these bible translations and church leaders would have us believe.

It is clear that it is the motivation behind – or the basis for – the sowing that is the focus here. What a difference a seemingly insignificant 3-letter word can make! By itself, it confirms that the motivation, the motive, the intention, the basis, the attitude, etc. is what is of concern in this verse. Now therefore, a plausible paraphrase of the second part could be…he whose motivation to sow is that it will bless someone will himself receive blessings in return. The quantity that is to be sown is not at all being referenced here…and guess what…it does not need to be! Why? Because if the other instances of the word eulogia such as in Galatians and Hebrews (as discussed in part 2) are any indication, the very fact that the sowing is performed on the basis of blessings automatically implies that the “right” quantity will be given.
So, dear church leaders…it is time to teach people HOW to give, and stop hammering them about HOW MUCH to give, because that is simply not what this verse teaches. But…will you do it? You know your church bank account may experience some – how shall we say it -…issues as a result! Or will it…

By the way, here is how the amplified bible (AMP) cleverly puts it.

2 Corinthians 9:6  …he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.

If you asks us, we see an attempt to reconcile these two views, by making reference both to the quantity, and to the way one sows…all in one sentence…clever huh?! Unfortunately, no matter how pleasing this may sound, we simply find no biblical basis for that.

It is actually very clear that all these bible translators understood full well the need to have sentences that are structurally correct. Look. They used adverbs when changing the meaning of the noun eulogia. They used the adverb generously, not the noun generosity. They used the adverb bountifully, not the noun bounty. And to make all fit, the word epi simply had to be removed. Why? Because otherwise there are two choices: either one writes…on the basis of (epi) generosity, or one writes…generously.  But these two statements are very different. The former clearly emphasizes the motivation, while the latter could certainly refer to the the quantity. They chose quantity (and our church leaders are the more happy for it), and epi had to go! Here goes the sad story of our little epi

So where does that bring us? To the first part of verse 6 of course. Now that we have restored the wordings in the second part, we may now turn to the first part…and there, sparingly sure sounds like quantity! Or does it…?

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…

A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 1)

A little Introduction, shall we…

If you have ever set your feet in a church setting, or mingled long enough with other Christians, it is highly likely that you are very familiar with the saying of this passage.

2 Corinthians 9: 6, 7Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [NIV]

This section of scripture appears to tell very plainly and clearly that not only we should give much (i.e. the more we give the better), but that we should do it with a cheerful heart. “Hey,…if you sow a little, you will reap a little, and if you sow a lot, then you will reap a lot! And by the way, as you sow a lot, make sure to sow with a cheerful heart, because otherwise God will not be pleased”. Turn on the TV monitor to one of those Christians channels, and you are bound to hear it within the next hour or two! Without a doubt, this passage is an all-time favorite among preachers (you may conjecture why…). But as Part 6 of how our previous series argued, it is our responsibility to study this passage ourselves. There is also a verse that comes to mind:

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

It is noble in God’s eyes to search the scriptures after they have been taught to us, with the objective of determining whether what we were taught was indeed true. And teachings on this passage, not matter how familiar we might be with them, demand that we subject them to the same scrutiny.

2 Corinthians 9: 6, 7 appears to raise two (2) distinct prerogatives: On one hand is the quantity to give (mainly verse 6), while on the other is the attitude to have in the giving (verse 7).

But is it really what God is saying here? In this series, we will argue that the answer to this question is NO! We will argue that God does not make at all reference to the quantity one gives. In quite a contrast, we shall argue that this passage sole focus  and emphasis – is on the attitude in (or the intention behind) the giving. And as a byproduct of this argument, this series will also highlight just how much of an inconvenient truth this passage can truly become. But obviously, not to everyone, for how can the truth be anything else than a welcomed refreshing to those who truly want to nurture their love for God?