Luke 11:42-44 (ESV)
"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it."
Tithing was something commanded in the O.T. It was supposed to be done. Actually there were three different tithes. They served a lot like a tax to support not only the church, but also society and government. In the New Testament tithing isn’t required. God says to give what you can with a cheerful heart, more or less. I know of people that give far more than ten percent, others who give less.
One of the nice things about the idea of tithing, is then ten families tithing can support a pastor, who is supposed to make his living from the gospel, at the median income of the congregation. So at the time of the New Testament, all that was required to start a new synagogue was ten families willing to tithe. Ten willing families that found having a rabbi to teach and conduct services a worthwhile endeavor, something to pay for. Tithing may not be commanded, but when I think about that, I think it is a good idea.
Jesus says the Pharisees ought to have done these things without neglecting the others. He does acknowledge they were a little fastidious in how they paid attention to the laws of tithing, going beyond what most thought was reasonable, or even commanded. And their eccentricities in these things would have been commendable if they hadn’t done that to the neglect of others, justice and the love of God. It seems crazy that someone who donated ten percent of their income did not love God. But that is just it. They didn’t do it for the love of God, but for the love of self. Their motives were wrong. They did it because of the law, which if they broke would send them to hell. They did it to garner applause from the people, to buy the best seats in the synagogue. But not for the love of God. And therefore it was empty.
That is a catch 22. A person can’t make themselves love God. We know we ought too. Everyone knows that, even atheists. But knowing we should, and doing so can be two different things. Like being in a loveless marriage perhaps. The husband and wife know they ought too, but too often the more they try the less they find themselves able to do so. It can be overcome in a relationship between two persons, when both want to love each other. But with God, our sinful nature will not let us. Only one thing can break the vicious cycle there, the Holy Spirit, who calls us by the gospel, the love of Christ made manifest in his death and resurrection. Only that God has loved us, will we ever learn to love him, his love cleanses us from all our sin.