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Matthew 23:23

A Sermon With Three Points

A man was asked to speak to a rather large church congregation. After he strode to the pulpit he said, “There are three points to my sermon.” Most people yawned at that point. They’d heard that many times before.

But he went on. “My first point is this. At this time there are approximately 2 billion people starving to death in the world.” The reaction through the congregation was about the same, since they’d heard that sort of statement many times before, too.

And then he said, “My second point.” Everybody sat up. Only ten or fifteen seconds had passed, and he was already on his second point? He paused, then said, “My second point is that most of you don’t give a damn!”

He paused again as gasps and rumblings flowed across the congregation, and then said: “And my third point is that the real tragedy among Christians today is that many of you are now more concerned that I said ‘damn’ than you are that I said that 2 billion people are starving to death.”

Then he sat down.

Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 40

Tithable Items

Tractate Maaseroth opens with a ruling on what is liable to the tithe, “all that which is food” and then defines when that food is liable—not in its early stage but in its later stage (1:1). The determinations become more detailed in the eight mishnot that follow—”figs” (1:2); “carabs” (1:3); “greens—cucumbers, gourds, melons,.” (1:4); etc. The attention given every plant reflects the rabbinic concern to legislate on every detail of life, to leave nothing unaddressed. And this is reflected in Matthew 23:23, where the Lord condemns the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites” because they tithed “mint, dill, and cummin” but neglected the “more important requirements of the law.”

Maaseroth 4:5 gives instruction on dill and seed. In the Law of Moses none of these are listed for tithing, but evidently because these were herbs and seed used as seasoning in food they were considered tithable. It may be that the rabbis went beyond the intent of the law with such concern for detail, but it was not their meticulous observance of tithing that Jesus condemned but their lack of equal or greater attention to “justice and mercy and faithfulness.”

In Maaseroth 5:7 the exact rulings reach the absurd with legislation regarding ant-holes alongside a heap of corn. “The corn inside of them is also liable” to be tithed.

From Exegesis and Exposition, Vol. 3, #1 (fall, 1988), Tithes, Maaseroth, Shedalim, Demai, Maaser Sheni, by Dan Duncan.