“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 giving isn’t enough
The Pharisees meticulously paid tithe, they gave great offerings to the temple, and they paid their share of alms to the poor.
The Pharisees, as a class, probably gave much wealth that was directed and redistributed to the poor in Jerusalem and all of Israel. If you were to create a tax return for them, they would probably look like the most generous people that you could ever find.
And yet this wasn’t enough.
The poor were still bountiful, unable to unleash themselves from their yoke of oppression, degradation, and suffering.
Jesus’ rebuke cuts to the quick:
So you gave one tenth of your income?
You gave the required alms according to the law?
You dropped your coins into the collection boxes?
Good for you!
But when did you last show justice, mercy, and faith to one of those you supposedly dropped those coins for?
When was the last time you took the hand of a poor man and showed him the love of God?
Jesus wasn’t condemning the Pharisees for giving according to the law. In fact Jesus says that they should exert justice and mercy and faith without “neglecting” giving.
To give the appropriate amount is good, but if we just leave it at that, if we just contribute what we must and walk away from the issue, we turn our backs on our brothers.
Equally important, we miss out on experiencing that apex of the Christian journey, the part of the story without which the rest would be meaningless:
Giving unconditional love to another person.
“I don’t know you, but I know God loves you as He loves me, and therefore, I love you.”
Throughout the Gospel this is the message. This is the essence of what Christ taught here on earth.
We must learn to receive the love of God and others and give it in turn.
Today, we are faced with the same dilemma. Do we just pay our taxes, give tithe, and give out some donations to the local children’s group? Do we drop our coins in the box and walk away?
Or do we take up the call. Do we reach out to the least in our society and tell them that they matter, that there are those who care about them, and that the love of Christ can heal all wounds.
Will you join us, here and now, in completing the great mission Christ left us and in following the great command He revealed to us?