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.