It is written, “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you give a tenth (tithe) of your mint and dill and cumin [focusing on minor matters], and have neglected the weightier [more important moral and spiritual] provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the [primary] things you ought to have done without neglecting the others,” (Matthew 23:23, AMP).
In the twenty-third chapter of the book of Matthew, the Pharisees sent their disciples and a sect of Jews who were low ranking Roman civil servants to entrap Jesus Christ, and their goal was to slander Him and discourage others from continuing to follow His wise teachings. However, Jesus knew what was in their hearts and minds. This is when he started to rebuke them stating “Woe to you” before every one of His statements to this group of people. Contrary to Jesus’ beatitudes, where Jesus was teaching the people what to do to live a fruitful life and to please God, Jesus was telling these Jewish people who placed the law of man before the Law of God that they were falsely following God. However, the verse that stood out to me the most was verse 23 which I shared with everyone at the beginning of this message.
I cannot count with my hands the number of times where I have gone to church and heard about tithing. Many preachers out there care more about the funding of their churches over the spiritual growth of their congregation. This was true in the time of Christ with the Pharisees and it is true now in the Church Age. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a church member, it is your responsibility to help keep the doors open, however, if God wants the doors closed they will be closed. Our tithing is only a small part of our spiritual growth, yet so many people get stuck on it because they put too much of their faith and trust in money. Instead, here and now Jesus is stating that giving our tithes is a minor matter of placing our trust in God. The weightier (more important) matters are justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Then Jesus takes it a step further and tells everyone that these are the primary things that they should have been doing from the beginning.
I am not saying to not support our local churches, I am saying that tithing should never be our priority. Our priority as a Christian should always be to model ourselves after Jesus Christ. This cannot happen if we are worried about our external circumstances, this can only happen when we focus on our inner selves. This is why Jesus was stating that we need to live a just life. The biblical meaning for justice is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and this is rooted in the very nature of God. To love others and place other’s needs before our own is to live a just life. Then, we need to live mercifully. This means to live a life with the disposition of humility. It is when we can live a life full of humility that we can be compassionate towards others can occur, and this is what mercy is all about. Lastly, we need to live faithfully. This means to embody the qualities of loyalty and devotion towards God. These are the weightier things in the sight of God and Jesus was trying to highlight them to us.
Simply put, outward motives may keep the outside clean while our insides are filthy and dirty; but if our hearts and spirits are made new, there is a newness of life. This can only happen when we focus on pleasing God and building our relationship with Him through the teachings of His son Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We can give our tithes, and we can do what is right before men, however, when we all meet our maker, Jesus will not be caring about your tithes. He will be caring about the lack of the most important things that should have made up your life, and they are justice, mercy, and faithfulness. This is why we need to focus on an inward change and renewal of our spirit daily, instead of focusing on what other men are telling us what we should do. When our hearts and minds are renewed, then we can start focusing on everything else.
Father, I pray that you can give us the courage that you gave Jesus to stand against those who twist your teachings to benefit themselves instead of glorifying you. I pray that we can focus on a daily inward change that will allow us to love justice, live mercifully, and to have a constant devotion to your will being done on earth as it is being done in heaven. Father, I thank you for your teaching and I pray that we all can take it to heart and understand that a tithe is only 10% of us and you want all of us, not just 10%. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen!