Some people look at tithing and dismiss it as being Old Testament. Jesus did not dismiss the religious leaders from tithing, but said they should add the missing 90% of their being to the 10% donation. Jesus was calling the Pharisees to reclaim the whole principle of being a generous people created to give their lives as an offering to God.
Their very own prophet Micah spoke to the heart and purpose of giving to religious causes.
It was not the prescribed amounts that pleased God. It was not a person’s excessiveness in their material gifts. It was not making a sacrifice that involved loss to their family. God had made it clear what real goodness looked like. The real requirements of God involve our purposeful living in the context of relationships.
This is the fair and ethical treatment of the poor and oppressed in our lives. The question about us is whether we prefer to act as the prosecutor or the defense. Are we more concerned with getting what others owe us or finding ways to improve their lives?
Justice is about right and wrong, truth and consequences. Do we treat others right and establish truthfulness in our dealings? Is our sense of righteousness based on love, restoration and dignity? Or do we roll our eyes and walk away from an opportunity to make a difference?
We should give money to God’s work but more importantly maintain a heart of fairness and equity in how people are being treated and needs being met. This is what it means to do justly.
In order to be merciful, there must be compelling reasons to not show mercy. Mercy is a choice especially when vengeance or consequence is preferred.
We all have people in our lives that we have some power over. If our social standing or position in life gives us an advantage over another, we can offer meaningful mercy. The Pharisees could have been merciful and understanding to sinners, but chose instead to be judgmental and cruel.
When others have clearly sinned against us, we are faced with the choice of forgiveness and mercy. What is that someone owes you? Who has ripped you off? When we show mercy to those who offend us, we show the heart of God towards humanity. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Shouldn’t we love mercy over judgment?
Money can sometimes be used to exercise power over another or to influence an organization to do our bidding. When we bring our offerings to the Lord, we are relinquishing our power to assist in the well being of the community.
Giving our tithe is not a vote of approval as much as it is an acknowledgement that we will be faithful in our lives to meet the needs of others. God values our faithfulness to Him over our impressive achievements and public accolades. He values the faithfulness we have to our people over the nuances of our doctrine or how well we conform to community expectations.
The humble and faithful are most true to God when no one is looking. If you are like me, you want to give to God. You may also struggle with the heavier implications of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus showed mercy to religious people who let go of their charade and admitted the condition of their heart to God.
When Jesus referred to the Publican in the Temple hanging his head in shame, he described the religious person who could admit their weakness and sense of failure. He described the heart that understands the true righteousness of God and human incapability to achieve it.
God is merciful to sinners who are humble. But to the sinner who brags about their religious achievements, there is dismissal and rebuke from God.
Let’s not just focus on things like tithing, church attendance and other religious expectations. In addition to the 10% we give of our lives to religion, we will add 90% by doing justly, loving mercy and walking faithfully with God.