It’s well documented that Jesus spoke more about money than He did about love or about Heaven and Hell combined. It’s also well documented that He spoke about the tithe only once, when he was rebuking the Pharisees as recorded in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. What’s not so well documented is that when He spoke about the tithe, He didn’t mention money at all:
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:42)
“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)
When your pastor uses these verses in a sermon about tithing, he or she most certainly glosses over the substance of the tithe. But inquiring minds want to know: Why would Jesus mention herbs and spices instead of money? You've probably been taught it’s because ancient Israel was an agrarian society. But the truth is, they had a monetary system with jobs and wages just like we have today—there was no lack of money in ancient Israel. The real reason Jesus didn’t mention money is quite simple:
In Genesis 28:22, Jacob vowed to give God a tenth of the land that God was giving to him and his descendants. In Leviticus 27:30, God confirmed Jacob’s vow by claiming ownership of a tenth of everything the land produced. In Numbers 18:21, God gave His tenth of the produce to the Levites for their work at the tabernacle.
Why herbs and spices? Because that’s what Jacob gave Him.
Although Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting the more important matters of the law like justice and love, He commended them for obeying the letter of the law and giving the Levites the tenth of their garden harvest that God already owned.
In no way, shape or form was Jesus addressing Christians under the New Covenant. These two verses should never be construed to mean that Christians today are required to give ten percent of their income to God and that it’s payable to their local church. Did Jesus affirm giving of the tithe for the Pharisees? Absolutely. Did He affirm tithing for us? Absolutely not.
Not every passage of scripture in the Bible applies to Christians living under the New Covenant. A little discernment goes a long way towards understanding the Bible and understanding the truth.
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