The religious leaders in Jesus’ sights were exemplary in their staging of spirituality. With one look, you would swear they were very righteous and a great example of pious role models. They poised like models for the camera’s eye. They were the original prototype for Derek Zoolander! They knew how to strike a pose that made you want what they had.
The Old Testament taught people to give. Whenever a crop was harvested or business transpired the first fruits were to be given to the priesthood. The tithe value of 10% was the beginning of gratitude for having experienced the profits of their work. By giving 10% of their garden and livestock to God, people were thanking God who made it possible for this yield of life from His Creation. At the heart of a tither there was an awe-inspired gratitude to God and a commitment to God’s mission through His People.
Since most of us do not have gardens or livestock, we give from our money that we receive as pay-cheques or support. When a Christ-follower tithes, they are choosing to give at least 10% back to God as an expression of gratitude and support towards God’s work as expressed through the local church.
The Pharisees however, were missing something vital in their discipline of giving. Jesus said they were blind men trying to lead others. They were confused about God’s requirement. While they worked so meticulously to portion out 10% of the spices from their garden, they missed the true nature of generosity. Imagine counting out dill seeds before going to Temple…
Jesus said they were careful to not swallow an insect, but careless about the huge animal going down their throat – this was a picture of the absurdity of the tithers. This was their confusing consumption! They accurately measured out their 10% gift of mint for God, but neglected to be just and fair in their treatment of the community around them. They thought of how their tithe of dill was a lovely gift for the priests at the Temple, but showed no mercy to people who offended them or needed help.
With faithful regularity, they brought their tithe gift of cumin spice to the Temple. But they showed a lack of faithfulness when they preferred the traditions of men to the heart surrender Christ called for.