Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Matthew 23:23)Jesus is upbraiding the religious leaders of the day for paying their tithe and neglecting their hearts. He tells them they should do first things first, but not neglect the tithe.
We could debate whether this applies to believers. The Pharisees were under the Law. Jesus had not yet died for the sins of the world and salvation by grace through faith was still a mystery. Some could say that the church is not under the same regulations as the Jews were.
However, Jesus put us all in the same category when He talked about the heart. He wants our hearts to be right toward God and toward others. When the heart is right, then generosity becomes a way of life.
Those whose faith is in the Living God know that He is the source of all things. If I have an income, it is because God has provided for me. If someone has a need and I give them part of my income, God is faithful and will continue to provide for me.
The New Testament has much to say about this attitude and about giving. One passage encourages me . . .
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6–7)Giving with a cheerful heart expresses that I trust God to take care of my needs so much so that whatever I give away is not a big deal. I know that if I need it, God will give it back to me. If I don’t need it that also is reason to be glad because whatever I gave was a hindrance. Someone else needed it and far better that it goes to whom it belongs.
This ties together the thoughts from Matthew 23:23. Being able to give generously and without concern for our own needs is part of showing justice to others and being merciful. This also requires faith in the God who provides.
Sometimes I absent-mindedly put money in the offering plate as it passes. Instead, I ought to be thinking of and praying for those who will benefit from my giving. They are an important part of obeying God’s impulse to be generous.
I also ought to be thankful. Sometimes God asks me to show my heart with my wallet. He is pleased when I do it cheerfully. That pleasure is from knowing that He has provided — I not only have something to give, but the faith to do it without worrying about my own needs.