“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others.”
(Matthew 23.23, NET)
What is Jesus talking about here?
The claimed righteousness and behaviour of the experts in the law and…Pharisees was impeccable. Their claim was that they lived truer, taller, and tighter than any around them (Matthew 23.25). They were all about what people saw of them, heard of them, and thought of them. They were all about the outside. They gave religiously (a tenth of…) yet [neglected] what is more important. Was their character and conduct that of a believer? In their minds, sure, and part of the evidence is “Look, I tithe/give”.
Yes, giving is important (1 Corinthians 16.2 and 2 Corinthians 9.7, for example). However, it’s not ok to give a tithe or an offering and think that this frees you up to behave poorly and miss the mark elsewhere.
Yes, giving is important, but your broader behaviour is equally (if not more) important. We can’t give to church and then behave like an unbeliever when we’re there.
Yes, we need to give (You should have done these things…) but that doesn’t take away our responsibility to actually live out the faith we profess.
Dropping cash into the bag or transferring it with your phone isn’t a free pass to then be rude to others, selfish or one-sided in our expectations of others, or hypocritical in how we handle the perceived sin of others (Matthew 7.5).
Very simply, saying “Well I tithe/give here” isn’t a free pass to poor behaviour and doesn’t give you the right to exhibit a critical spirit (Luke 6.45, Galatians 5.14-15). No church needs your tithe that badly as to accept your wilful words and actions of criticism.
Yes, giving is important, but it is the overflow of a life filled with gratitude and not a crutch for a critical spirit to lean on.
If this has been your mentality towards giving, if you have justified your shortcomings in your church community with “Well I tithe/give here”, consider this today:
He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what the Lordreally wants from you:
He wants you to carry out justice, to love faithfulness,
and to live obediently before your God.
(Micah 6.8, NET, emphasis added)
Tomorrow Acts: Day by Day resumes!