to "tone down the law"?
To make our lives easier?
So that we can do whatever we please,
since we’ll receive
Or, in other words, does the NT cancel the law
and give permission to sin?
Before we answer this claim, it’s important to clarify:
When the Rabbis use the word “Torah” they’re not referring to
but to the commands of the rabbinical tradition,
invented by the Sages thousands of years after Moses’ time.
See for example the introduction to a book by a famous Orthodox Jewish writer Chaim Shimmel in his book The Oral Law:
“Jews never followed the actual words of the Torah, but lived according to the Rabbis’ traditions, who believe that God gave to Moses an additional law at Sinai: The Oral Law.”
(We’ve dedicated a separate video and article to the myth of the “Oral Law”. You can watch / read it here.)
DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT REALLY MAKE THE LIVES OF ITS FOLLOWERS EASIER?
What do you think is easier?
Keeping outward traditions and ceremonies like putting a piece of fabric on your head (a yarmulke)? Wrapping a leather strap around your arm (tefillin)? Or not tearing toilet paper on Sabbath;
Things that don’t really concern our heart,
or help us love our neighbor better?
the deep reaching “heart surgery”
that Jesus and the NT call for in order
to instill a living spirit in our hearts of stone?
In the NT Jesus tells us to even love our enemies and to
give our resources to the poor.
You need to understand, the NT doesn’t make things easier.
On the contrary,
the standard is higher.
According to the NT, from God’s perspective all these habits and external ceremonies that our tradition develops and dictates don’t impress him at all.
Also, they do not cause us to love
or help our neighbor more.
Our natural inclination is to do good and help others because we think that God then will owe us a favor or others owe us when we need help.
But these are selfish motives that actually serve ourselves.
That’s not true love.
What is the only true motive for good deeds?
When God did the most worthy act,
he showed us his love when he appeared to us in the Messiah and gave his life even unto death so that we could have
forgiveness of sin.
Therefore, it is just a natural expression that following God’s example in what he did for us, we too should lend a hand,
loving and helping our neighbor.
Not as someone who owes to others,
not out of fear or constraint
but rather as an expression of love towards God
according to the example that he gave us in Jesus.
The truth is,
that in the OT times just like today, the people of Israel were so far
removed from God that God stated:
“Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates…” (Isaiah 1:14)
God is not interested in our ceremonies, the candles we light, the dreidels that we spin, or the meal that we skip once a year. He’s interested in our heart, our relationship to our neighbors and to his creation.
ACCORDING TO JESUS, WHAT DEFILES US IS NOT WHAT ENTERS OUR MOUTH BUT WHAT COMES OUT OF IT.
Our mouth is like a mirror to what happens in our heart – our thoughts.
For that reason, Jesus said:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart
and this defiles a person.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matthew 15:17-20)
According to Jesus, our words,
just like our outward deeds,
are the fruit of what occurs in our heart.
For example, fornication, rape or adultery are an outward expression of the sin within our hearts, the lust in our thoughts. Therefore he taught:
“Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
Jesus raises the bar.
Jesus’ moral understanding of the law is by far more rigid than any rabbinic interpretation. But here comes what is so special about Jesus.
On one hand, Jesus reinforces and raises the
moral standards of the law.
Yet, on the other hand he also increases grace – a standard of grace and mercy that is hard to live up to.
Not lower than the moral standard that he sets.
“You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.
But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to him the other also.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,
let him have your cloak as well.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile,
go with him two miles.
Give to the one who begs from you,
and do not refuse the one who
would borrow from you.”
In ancient middle eastern culture, and unfortunately until today,
the pride of man brought about a
of endless retaliation.
Retaliation after retaliation after retaliation after retaliation.
Jesus commanded us to put an end to this.
With the commandment “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, God taught Israel that the life of everyone has value. For example, a slave’s eye was not of less worth in God’s sight than a king’s eye.
But the religious tradition interpreted this in a different way, as a permission to retaliate. This leads to an endless cycle of retaliation. Bloodshed that leads to more bloodshed that leads to more bloodshed.
Jesus tells us:
“Enough! Stop getting revenge.”
It’s impossible to appease people with revenge.
It’s impossible to cast out darkness with more darkness.
Only light casts out darkness.
Only love will appease people. Not revenge. How?
By showing them grace.
Let’s face it, this does not sound simple and easy at all. It’s a lot more challenging than kissing a mezuza or not eating a cheeseburger, isn’t it?
It becomes even more complex.
Because Jesus doesn’t only ask us to love those who love us too,
but even those who hate us.
The rabbinical tradition teaches that you should
love your neighbor as yourself,
referring only to Jews that keep the law.
however, commands us to show grace and love to everyone – also to the Gentiles, and even to those who hate us.
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?”
According to Jesus,
if you were angry at your brother without cause,
you killed him.
Did you dream about another woman? You cheated on your wife.
Jesus does not make our life easier. On the contrary! He takes the Torah’s high standards, makes them even harder, and proves to us that in reality, the tradition abandoned the Torah and
toned down its commandments.
But Jesus does not want to make it harder on us
in a legalistic and strict way.
Rather, he wants our heart
to change its perspective and be
As a result, we will love, serve and give from ourselves for others.
Not out of constraint or fear,
but out of love, appreciation,
and because we are grateful for what
He did for us.
Jesus is the example we need to follow.
And while we should
try to live up to the highest moral standard,
we must remember that we
are not called to judge others,
but to love and show mercy.
God is the ultimate judge, not us.
See what Paul the Apostle says in the NT
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass,
but where sin increased,
grace abounded all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through righteousness
leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then?
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
By no means!
How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that we too might walk in newness of life just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall also be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members present to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 5:20-6:15)
In other words, the NT rules out every permission to sin.
It’s important to
understand also how the Sages admitted that
the law of the Messiah
will be different than Moses’ law.
See what’s written in the Talmud:
“In the future the Lord, will sit in the Garden of Eden,
and preach and all the righteous will sit at his feet.
And the Lord will sit and teach
a new law that will be given by the Messiah.”
(Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah 26)
To sum it up, since the Sinai covenant,
we were under Moses’ commandments,
but now in the new covenant,
we are under the
commandments of the Messiah.
And our lives? They do not become easier.
On the contrary, they are a challenge.
But also a lot more satisfying,
since we are not ruled by fear or constraint
but by love and grace.
Throughout the centuries,
Christians have given generously and sacrificially
for the cause of the Gospel.
Christians have funded schools, charities, and hospitals.
Christians have given time and treasure to rebuild cities after floods and fires.
Christians have given faithfully to their local churches, to missionaries, to neighbors in need,
and have given consistently in ways
that others will never know.
Following the lead of our Savior who gave all on our behalf,
Christians are a giving people.
But how much does the Bible say we should give?
Is there a specific amount, or a set rule that we are required to follow? Does our salvation itself hinge on the amount of money we give, and where we give it? Does God really threaten to curse us if we don’t give a certain amount in a certain way? The good news for us is that the answer is extraordinarily simple: we are required to give nothing, yet it becomes our desire to give everything.
You Get What You Give "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:6
Giving benefits the one who gives the gift and the one who receives the gift.
Some have misread this verse to mean that those who give much financially will in turn be rewarded with much financially. This is wrong thinking and sets up a kind of ‘giving in order to get more back’ scheme. God will certainly bless our giving beyond all we ask or imagine and simultaneously provide for our each and every need.
Yet our blessing comes not from a financial return, but by the act of giving itself which grows us and draws us closer to Christ.
There are no records of the apostles,
or Jesus himself for that matter,
living lives of wealth and comfort
because of their giving.
God is the Greatest Giver
– 2 Corinthians 9:10
God is the greatest giver. He gives us all things, and without Him we are and have nothing. Just like a seed that brings forth a larger harvest than expected, when we give generously we can expect to see a harvest of blessing come from it. God will grow us in righteousness as we give in faith, and will use any gift we give to do more than we could ever imagine. We should seek such a ‘harvest of righteousness’ above any material wealth.
We also don’t give to receive accolades for our generosity. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus tells us to give ‘so that your right hand does not know what your left hand is doing’. Our reward for giving comes from God, not from the accolades of others. There is nothing wrong at all with being thankful for one who gives generously, but that is not why we give. We give out of love of others and love of Christ.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
God loves a cheerful giver!
This is a beautiful thought because of what Paul says (give cheerfully) and because of what he doesn’t say (give a certain amount). God doesn’t desire our giving to be done begrudgingly or under compulsion. Should you be pressured to give a certain amount (or else!) then there is something very wrong and very non-Scriptural happening. That giving has gone from being a joy to a burden.
Giving never, ever comes from guilt, obligation, or compulsion. Giving is not some religious tax that Christians are required to meet. Jesus came to push aside that kind of giving, and to fulfill it with something better. Matthew 11:30 tells us that “His burden is light”. Jesus is not the heavenly IRS. His desire is not to place a burden on us by demanding a certain amount of giving and punishing us if we don’t meet it. He gave freely to us on the cross, continues to give freely to us daily in all the blessings of life, and in response we give freely as well.
The Truth about TithingAny conversation about Christian giving will involve tithing. Tithing is beneficial, and is a method of giving that can provide structure and personal accountability. One verse that is regularly used when discussing tithing is Malachi 3:9-10, “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
The problem with this verse is that, taken out of context, it becomes legalistic and can cause unnecessary fear and pain in the lives of believers. God will indeed open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing on cheerful givers! But if God truly has plans to curse the God-fearing members of His Church because they are not tithing according to this verse in Malachi, why in the world do Paul and the other New Testament writers fail to mention it?
Giving is Good. Legalism is Bad.The New Testament writers had many opportunities to teach and require percentage giving, yet they don't do it. They instead encouraged believers to give all they had to God and to others. The old law required giving 10% of the harvest to the theocratic government of Israel. It was used to care for the Levites who served in the temple and as a gift to God. The concept was one that said, tithe to the Temple and do what you will with the rest.
In Christ, we no longer live under a ‘90/10’ arrangement, but prayerfully give God 100% of all we are and all we have - all the time. Christ came to fulfill the Law, and everything, including each breath, is from Him and belongs to Him. From our perspective, sometimes our giving may look like a lot, sometimes it may look like a little. But when we give as God leads, we may never know the full extent of how our gifts are used for Him.
Giving is an Act of Worship
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1
Since we are not required to give a certain amount, what does that mean if we don’t give at all? The key to giving is to do so cheerfully as an act of sacrifice and an act of worship. We should give sacrificially as we feel led by God and allow Him to use our giving to bring about a great harvest in the lives of others and in His church. The pattern of Christian giving is not one of box-checking and obligations. It is a daily lifestyle of kindness and generosity flowing from the Spirit which dwells within us.
When we give to our church, it is because that is where God has led us and we want to be a part of the good work he is doing there. If we simply give an obligatory dollar amount on Sundays, but then walk out and live ungrateful lives Monday through Saturday because we have ‘met our obligation’, we have missed the point entirely. God deserves all we are, not just a dollar amount once a week.
The bottom line is that we are to give cheerfully and generously, ‘as we feel led in our heart to give.’ When we truly do this, it causes us to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit and focused on where God would have us use our offerings for his glory and not our own.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and any gift that we could give to Him in return is a mere token of thanks for the eternal gift He has given us. Just like those cars in the drive through line, in life we will find ourselves both giving and receiving. We give because everything we own and everything we are is a gift from God.
We give because there is a joy that we can only know when we give as God lead us to. We give because giving makes us more like Christ. And we give because sometimes we will know what it is like to be in dire need and receive graciously from others, and it is an unspeakable joy to give as has been so generously given to us.