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 debate
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.