Below is a follow-up letter written by a visitor of Blow the Trumpet. It is written in response to our letter to him explaining why tithing is still in force in the New Testament. In this follow-up letter the writer continues to assert that tithing is no longer binding on God’s people and that Jesus was not advocating this practice in Matthew 23:23. We have provided his letter in its entirety followed by our response.
Hello Blow the Trumpet Friend,
I am surprised you would isolate one section of one verse to justify "a command to tithe". The whole chapter is devoted to condemning the Pharisees and all their practices including their show of tithing, which was not tithing at all. There is no command to tithe there. It is a case of if you are going to tithe, you ought to do the other things first.
- In this verse tithing is excluded from being the weightier or very important matters of the law.
- If you are going to tithe - it is conditional on doing the other weightier matters first.
- Christ condemned them as of vile and hypocrites - do you think they really tithed at all. It was just an outward show, (Like Corban which is also condemned), built on lies and hypocrisy. Would you want to emulate what they did?
The Pharisees were not of the sons of Zadok, they had no right or inheritance in the priesthood. Moses seat was a special seat in the synagogue. Many seem to think that Mat 23:3 means we must do what the Pharisees say or bid, but really it reinforcing that they whatsoever Moses bid that do, but not after the Pharisees because they say and do not - hypocrites. If tithing were to be such a benchmark - where did Christ teach it? Not "condemning the Pharisees tithing practices" - truly their tithing practices were included in all the other things Christ condemned them for.
Thank you for your continued comments concerning our position on tithing. We appreciate your interest in this subject. Prior to providing our response it is important for you to understand that we respect your desire to honor God and His way. Furthermore, we do not question your motives or you. For this reason we would like to add some clarity to our position on this important subject as it pertains to your most recent correspondence. Below are your comments and our response.
“I am surprised you would isolate one section of one verse (Mt 23:23) to justify ‘a command to tithe.’ The whole chapter is devoted to condemning the pharisees and all their practices including their show of tithing, which was not tithing at all.”
Our reason for focusing on Jesus words as recorded in Matthew 23:23 is not because our whole case relies solely on them, but rather because you mentioned them in your first letter and dismissed them so casually. This surprised us because they are the words of God in the flesh. The relatively small space they consume in the scriptures does nothing to diminish them. Just out of curiosity, how many times does Jesus have to say something in order for it to be an official pronouncement from God? It is our belief that once is enough. Furthermore, if one refuses to be honest with what the Messiah did and did not say in this verse, it makes discussing the issue difficult. For this reason we are going to continue to advance Jesus’ teaching as recorded in this verse. In other words, we’re not moving from this point. With that said, let us proceed.
We respectfully disagree with your assessment that the Pharisees were “not tithing at all.” We base this belief on Jesus’ own words, “You pay TITHE of mint and anise and cummin…” Notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “You try to tithe,” “You think you are tithing but are not,” “I don’t know what you are doing, but it sure isn’t tithing,” or, “It doesn’t matter because tithing is optional anyway.” There is nothing in this verse that suggests Jesus was taking issue with their tithing practices. This is made clear by the fact that He actually exhorted these religious leaders to continue doing what they did with respect to it. Notice what He said, “and not leave the other (your tithing) undone.”
The issue Jesus was making in His indictment of these religious leaders was that while they were so fastidious when it came to God’s law regarding tithing, they were totally sloppy when it came to the really important matters. As Jesus put it ”[you] omit the weighty matters of the law.”
“There is no command to tithe there [Mt. 23:23]. It is a case of if you are going to tithe, you ought to do the other things first.”
There is not one syllable in Jesus’ words that remotely hint that the command to tithe was no longer in effect. To suggest otherwise requires a HUGE distortion of the text. Additionally, your use of the word “if” is a fabrication. Nowhere does Jesus make tithing a matter of choice. Once again, here is what He said.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not leave the other (tithing) undone. (Mt. 23:23)
Why anyone would suggest that Jesus was actually saying His followers may leave tithing undone is beyond us. If God told you to not leave something undone would you honestly think you could do otherwise, with His blessing no less?
“In this verse tithing is excluded from being the weightier or very important matters of the law.”
It is true that tithing in not a weightier matter of the law, for Jesus said as much. With respect to whether or not it is important we will let Jesus words speak for themselves. “Do not leave it undone.” Therefore we believe it is IMPORTANT that you not leave it undone. Why? Because your Savior said so.
“If you are going to tithe - it is conditional on doing the other weightier matters first.”
There you go again using that word “if,” despite the fact that Jesus never implied such a thing let alone spoke it. Once again, here is what your Savior said, “don’t leave tithing undone.” Despite what you suggest, here is what He didn’t say; “you may tithe “IF” you want.”
Furthermore, Jesus NEVER remotely hinted that tithing was predicated on doing the weightier matters of the law first. Your conclusion that God made it conditional on the other does NOT come from Jesus’ words, but rather from the reasoning of man. He never even intimated that the Pharisees should stop tithing until they get the weightier matters down.
The point the Messiah was making in this indictment was that these religious bullies didn’t have a clue as to what a right relationship with their God really meant. A true relationship would need far more than being precise in their tithing regimen. It required that one must reflect mercy and kindness toward others as well as obedience to His law. That is why Jesus did not dismiss one and embrace the other. In reality He embraced both, although He clearly saw one as having far greater value.
To illustrate how Jesus words should be understood consider them in another context. The analogy is not perfect but it should help. Suppose a Christian dedicates great effort to his profession but ignores what are clearly more important responsibilities—such as his family and his spiritual development. God then tells him:
“You work very diligently at your job, but omit the most important issues of life—Family and Faith. This you ought to have done, and not leave the other undone.”
Do you really think God is telling him to quit his job? We don’t. On the contrary we believe these words are declaring that God’s people do not have to give up obeying one command in order to obey another. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown put it this way:
"There is no need for one set of duties to jostle out another; but it is to be carefully noted that of the greater duties our Lord says, "Ye ought to have done" them, while of the lesser He merely says, "Ye ought not to leave them undone."
Christ condemned them as vile and hypocrites - do you think they really tithed at all? It was just an outward show, (Like Corban which is also condemned), built on lies and hypocrisy. Would you want to emulate what they did?
This argument relies on twisting the scriptures to mean something they never even hint at. In it you suggest that because Jesus indicted the Pharisees’ practice of “Corban,” He also indicted their practice of tithing. However, this is not true. Here is the clear difference between these two practices.
- Corban was a tradition of men—Jesus said as much (Mk. 7:8-13)
Tithing was instituted by God Almighty. The Bible says as much. (Ex. 22:9, Lev. 27: 27-30)
- The tradition of Corban contradicted God’s great moral law, specifically the fifth commandment. Jesus said as much. (Mt. 15: 3-6)
Tithing contradicts nothing in God’s law. That is why Jesus affirmed its practice (Mt. 23:23).
To suggest that these two practices are the moral equivalent of each other is to mocks the words of Jesus Christ as well as the command of God Almighty. HE SAID NO SUCH THING!
The Pharisees were not of the sons of Zadok, they had no right or inheritance in the priesthood. Moses seat was a special seat in the synagogue. Many seem to think that Mat 23:3 means we must do what the pharisees say or bid, but really it is reinforcing that they whatsoever Moses bid that do, but not after the pharisees because they say and do not - hypocrites. If tithing were to be such a benchmark - where did Christ teach it? Not "condemning the pharisees tithing practices" - truly their tithing practices were included in all the other things Christ condemned them for.
We realize that you are convinced Jesus was condemning the tithing practices of the Pharisees and that He never suggested that tithing was in force in the New Testament. Please excuse us if we see his words differently.
“You shall not leave the other (tithing) undone”
Blow the Trumpet
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