About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Part 7

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Jesus Comments On The Ten Commandments


In the last section I pointed out that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross, cancelled, and taken away from human history for the purpose of salvation, righteousness  and obedience to it.  The Ten Commandments are found within the Law and so you might ask if they were nailed to the cross as well. Jesus commented on two the Commandments in Matt. 5 that sheds light on this question.  


In Matt. 5:21 Jesus said. “you have heard it said…”.  What people heard said was “do not murder”.  These words were said in the Ten Commandments.  The commandment clearly said, “don’t murder”.  Yet in verse 22 Jesus said, “but I tell you…”.  Do you see what’s happening here?  The Command said one thing but Jesus said another thing, and what Jesus said wasn’t exactly what the Law said.  What Jesus said was, “anyone who is angry at his brother is subject to judgment”.  Verses 27 to 33 are similar.  The command said “don’t commit adultery”, but Jesus said, “don’t lust”. 


What is Jesus saying about the Ten Commandments?  The answer is simple.  The Ten Commandments addressed external issues such as “don’t murder”.  Jesus addressed internal issues such as “don’t get angry”.  Jesus wasn’t contradicting the Law, which He couldn’t or else He would not have fulfilled it.  He was shifting the attention from the external behaviour to the internal matters of the heart, which was really in the heart of God in the first place. Behind any external action there’s an internal motive, and this is what Jesus is after. If He can change our hearts, our external actions will soon follow. The reverse isn’t true.  Just because you don’t murder doesn’t mean you don’t get angry. 


These matters of the heart are what the New Testament is all about.  That is, we change from within, not from without.  That’s one reason why the Holy Spirit lives within Christians. He’s come to bring change from within.  This hasn’t always been the thinking in Evangelical circles in times past. We’ve often majored on the externals, like outward dress, leaving the matters of the heart on the back burner.


As a young Evangelical I heard people say that they obeyed all the Ten Commandments, suggesting that their obedience made them righteous.  But that’s not so.  Obeying the external commands makes no one righteous. The Pharisees proved that, and Jesus called them hypocrites.  Righteousness begins in the heart.  Obeying the external commands doesn’t mean you obey them in  your heart.  Here’s an analogy that explains this well.  A child was being punished for yelling at his brother.  He was told to sit in the corner and be quiet.  The child thinks to himself, “I may be quiet on the outside, but I’m still screaming at my brother on the inside”.  Many of us are like this child.  We obey the Ten Commandments on the outside, but on the  inside it’s a different story.  That would put us in the same corner as the Pharisees.


So like the rest of the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments as they were originally written have taken on a new meaning  for New Testament Christians.  Tithing is not part of the Ten Commandments, but like murder and adultery, it has a New Testament alternative.  Giving the tithes in obedience to the Law of Moses has been redefined in New Testament terms.  Giving has first become a matter of the heart and from the heart is expressed in outward actions.    


The Law of Moses demanded three tithes.  Jesus isn’t interested in us giving three tithes any more than He is interested in us offering blood sacrifices. What Jesus is interested in is us “giving generously according to our ability to give, and giving cheerfully from the depth of our hearts, which may well be more than a tenth”.  This is what Paul advises in 2 Cor. 9:7.  This is New Testament thinking concerning the giving of our money.


2 Corinthians 9:6-7


In 2 Cor. 9:6-7  Paul said, “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”. 


Here’s what we learn from Paul.  In verse 6 we learn that New Testament thinking concerning giving money is not restricted to a certain percentage as demanded by a Law. Our giving should be generous, and God will reward us for this generosity.  The word generous is somewhat abstract. The amount of generousity  of one person may differ from another.  One thing we do know is that the word generous means more than the normal amount.  


In verse 7 Paul said, "each man should give what he has decided...".  We learn here that we decide what to give, not what a law tells us to give, or not what someone else tells us to give.  It’s our decision, made from the goodness of our hearts and influenced by Jesus. 


We also learn in verse 7 that we should never give “reluctantly”.  This means we should give freely, without any   complaining or hesitating.  Simply put, we should enjoy giving.     


The last thing we learn from verse 7 is that we should not give under “compulsion”.  This means that we should not be forced to give by any rule or by any person.  Christians are often compelled to give by zealous preachers attempting to twist their arms into giving.  Tithing sermons based on the premise that if you don’t tithe you’ll be cursed is  compulsive preaching in my thinking.  Paul said that we should not give under such circumstances.     


So once again, New Testament thinking concerning the giving of money is as follows. You decide how much to give.  You give freely, not reluctantly.  You shouldn’t be compelled by anyone or any rule to give.  And you give cheerfully. 




1 Corinthians 16:2

Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 16:2 "to set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income" (NIV).  He did not tell them to set aside a tithe.


Some will argue that what Paul says in 1 Cor. 16:2 is giving over and above their tithe.  They are right in thinking that what Paul was speaking to here is a special fund raising event he was involved in. It wasn’t an ongoing process of giving.  Paul was raising money to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem .  So Paul was on a special fund raising mission, yet I think what he says here is the intent of New Testament thinking concerning giving money. The idea is to “set aside some money in relation to your income”. There’s no mention of any certain percentage here.  That appears to be up to the giver and Jesus.


I see Paul’s request for help as being voluntary and Holy Spirit led, as was the practice with all first generation Christians.  Jesus has freely given to us and He wants us to freely give to other.  Paul makes this clear In 2 Cor. 9:7 when he Paul said, “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give…”

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