Tithe vs. Offering

December 12, 2021

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24).

Mosaic Law required the Jews to give a tithe (10%) of all their property to the support of the Levites (Numbers 18:20-24), another tithe for the service of the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 14:22-24), and another tithe every 3rd year to be given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). So, nearly 1/3 of the property of the Jews was given in tithes to religious services according to Mosaic Law. This was in addition to the voluntary offerings which they made throughout the year.

The law of the tithe has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, so Christians are not bound by the tithe. Instead, we give as the Holy Spirit leads us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. Again, (2 Corinthians 9:6-8) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

The Scribes and Pharisees were so legalistic regarding Mosaic Law that they stipulated a tithe be given on mint (a fragrant garden herb sprinkled on the floors of palaces and synagogues to produce a pleasant aroma) anise (a.k.a. dill, an herb used for flavoring and in perfumes), and cumin (an herb of the parsley family, used for flavoring and for health properties). These were insignificant herbs and lay outside the tithe of Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 14:22) which called for a tithe of the fruits, but not of the herbs.

At issue here is the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees that they would demand the people give a tithe to the most minute and insignificant material possessions, but they themselves ignored the greater matters of the Law that addressed justice (treating everyone equitably), mercy (showing compassion and granting forgiveness), and faith (leading people to put their trust in God rather than in the institutions of Judaism). In this they ‘strained the gnat but swallowed the camel’, a Hebraism that meant majoring on minor things and minoring on major things.

“Father, forgive us for being bound to the letter of the law in our own church dogma and doctrine while ignoring the spirit of the law that compels us to love others as You have loved us. May we be more committed to the Law of Love than the laws of the church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”


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