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 practised the latter without leaving the former undone.
I have a basil plant on my window sill right now and it probably has a couple hundred leaves on it. As a faithful upholder of God’s law, [following Leviticus 27:30] I would pick off twenty leaves and set them apart as holy. It sounds a little excessive to be so precise about giving and I immediately wondered if I would count the little leaves that really wouldn’t be used in cooking or just the big ones. What about the leaves that have spots or a little bit chewed out? But the thing is Jesus didn’t criticize the Pharisees for combing over their herb plants and setting aside a tenth of them. Tithing is a good discipline and a visible reminder that everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him anyway. God doesn’t mind tiny tithes.
But holiness isn’t just how I act towards God. It includes how I act towards other people. Jesus pointed out that although tithing your kitchen herb garden is good, it’s more important to give out justice and the love of God. How much of that have I given out lately? Am I being stingy there? Am I ignoring those on the margins of society? Am I getting so absorbed in my own concerns that I’m not paying attention to the people around me? What would it mean for me to act justly towards them?
It seems a lot easier to figure out how many basil leaves to pick than to figure out what I should do to act justly and pass on God’s love. Still, I want to cultivate a generous unthinking giving towards God and towards the people I see day by day.
Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good and this is what he requires of you:
To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7, 8