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 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.

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.