February 17 – Tithing or Love

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17 – Tithing or Love

 “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).

Jesus admonished the Pharisees for their attitude toward the Law.  They were more concerned with precision regarding their tithes, than they were for practicing justice and mercy or for sharing the love of God.

These people could identify a tenth of anything.  In Matthew’s recounting of the events, we read that Jesus specified some of the smallest items: mint, dill and cumin.  The Pharisees could delineate even a tenth of those spices for the Temple.  Luke’s retelling insulted them even more by declaring that they gave a tenth of their rue, which was a wild herb and exempt from tithing. The exaggeration of their behavior only pointed out the vast difference between following the letter of the Law and obeying its spirit.

Notice that Jesus didn't ask the Pharisees to stop tithing.  He tells them that they should have been able to do both.  Love and justice do not require us to leave the rest of our lives alone, in fact, the more we practice those things, the more the rest of our life will come into balance.  In other words, you can never have too much love and justice, but you can easily drop out of balance when you fall into Pharisaical behavior.

The moral of the story?  Love is what brings balance to our lives, not paperwork or rules or better organization. Those things might bring sanity to those of us who are a mite bit obsessive, but it is love which brings balance.