Is it possible to do the work of God yet have God unhappy with you? In the New Testament, Jesus speaks harshly to those who do the right things for the wrong reasons. What can we learn from those times when Jesus rebukes?
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. – Matthew 23:23
In Matthew 23, Jesus delivers the “Seven Woes”. What’s easy to miss in this chapter is His tone. Modern Christianity generally preaches the idea that the Old Testament showed God’s wrathful side while the New Testament, thanks to Jesus, shows the kinder, gentler, loving side. We hear messages of the forgiving God that wipes away all of our sins and while that’s true, the wrathful, angry side of God didn’t disappear with the birth of Jesus. He shows His wrath in these seven woes. Although reading the words may not fully illustrate the harshness of Jesus’ words to the pharisees, make no mistake, it was pointed, heated, and offensive to them.
In this verse, Jesus address the tithe. Remember that tithe literally means tenth and although he’s not speaking of actual money, the spices have substantial monetary value. Just as you could tithe shares of stock worth a certain amount of money, they tithed spices. But Jesus didn’t care about the tithe. It meant nothing to Him. Notice that He didn’t even surgar-coat the words by saying “I appreciate your tithe but…” No, instead, He said, “you tithe but you don’t have my heart. You didn’t tithe the spices because you hurt for people the way I hurt for people. You did it for an entirely different reason.”
What was the reason? Judgement! By tithing (and telling everybody about it) they could look down upon others. They could elevate themselves above those who didn’t have their level of religious training and they could oppress the gentiles. But we don’t do that today, do we?
Yes, we do. For many, including myself, tithes are automatically withdrawn from our accounts. We never see it leave. When we balance our personal books we see that it was taken and we don’t give it a second thought. God said to do it so we do it. It may not be that we have the wrong heart-motives. It may just be that we’ve become so used to it, that we forget about the significance.
“9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ – Luke 18:9-12
Or maybe it’s worse than that. Maybe we are like the Pharisees. Maybe we look at others in our church and make judgements about their life. “They couldn’t possibly be living a Godly life dressed like that.” Or, “did you hear what that person said?” Because we’re doing all of the right religious actions, that makes us feel better than those who aren’t. Whether we’re tithing with indifference or tithing and later judging, Jesus would rebuke us just as He did the Pharisees. So what’s the right way to tithe?
“6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 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. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Giving isn’t about the action. God doesn’t need your money. He gave it to you in the first place so tithing must be about something else. Tithing trains your heart. It trains you to give away control. If you can take the action of giving away your money knowing God is in control of it, you can do the same with your life. When you lay down your life, God picks it up and He begins a work in you. You’ll notice changes that you don’t understand. The people you once never cared about will become the object of your prayers. Your prayer life will transform from “God bless me” to “God bless them and allow me to see the things that break your heart.”
Tithing trains your heart. It trains you to give away control. If you can take the action of giving away your money knowing God is in control of it, you can do the same with your life.
Tithing will transform from an action to a heartfelt, joyful event because you know that the money is going to further the Kingdom of God. When you bless, God multiplies the blessings in your life.
If you’ve never been the kind to involve yourself in your church or if you’re the Christian who has always stayed on the sidelines, friend, you’re missing out. You’re missing out on a side of Christianity that makes it infectious. Don’t live like that anymore.
Tithe because you want to and watch God change you. It will be awesome!