Today, people’s conceptions of spiritual maturity have been shaped by the church, not by the Holy Spirit speaking to individuals through Yeshua’s teachings. We are, in other words, spiritual creations of the church. Our own understanding from the Holy Spirit, and our own knowledge of Yeshua’s teachings are rudimentary or lacking entirely.
- What is the authority about God we are to heed? Your answer likely is “the Bible.” What did Yeshua say is the authority about God? Yeshua said the Holy Spirit is the authority about God. He made no references to gospels that would be written or epistles. He never said “If you want to know about God, read the books God is going to be writing in the next 80 years.” The church says that. He said “Ask and you will receive.”
- When will we enter the kingdom of God? Your answer is likely “at the resurrection.” That’s what the church teaches. When did Yeshua say we will enter the kingdom of God? He said the kingdom of God is spread out upon the face of the earth and men do not see it. He said it is within every person. He said to the thief that the thief would be with him that day in paradise, meaning they would enter the afterlife together immediately. He never spoke of a Heaven that people would enter at some far-off time. The church taught that.
- What must we do to enter the kingdom of God? Your answer likely is “believe Yeshua (or Jesus) is God.” That’s what the church teaches. What did Yeshua teach? When the man of the law asked what he must do to enter the kingdom of God, Yeshua asked him what he understood from Jewish teaching. He replied, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “That’s right.” He repeated that clearly at other times. He never once said “Believe I am God.” He in fact called himself “Son of man” (meaning human being) and “Son of God” (meaning servant of God). The “No one comes to the father but by me” verse is not a direct statement as we would have expected if Yeshua required that all people believe he was God; it is clearly contradictory to his repeated teaching; it fits with the Mithras teaching that the church added to Yeshua’s teaching; and was promulgated by the church, not by Yeshua, Paul, Peter, James, or any others in the early church. The words didn’t come from Yeshua’s lips, and Yeshua clearly never thought of himself as God.
- Is the New Testament canon divinely inspired? You likely said, “Yes.” What did the Yeshua say about whether they are inspired? Nothing. He said the Old Testament scripture “cannot be broken” (John 10:34-36), but it was in the context of saying all men are Gods who receive the word of God and he was just a special messenger. And he didn’t say the Old Testament was literally the words of God; he said they were words that “cannot be broken,” meaning they contain Jewish tradition. And today, Christians don’t treat the Old Testament as the literal words of God, but the Old Testament was what Yeshua was referring to. If Christians did, today, they would obey the 613 Mitzvahs of Torah. They don’t.
The church wants us to believe the New Testament was divinely inspired, but the New Testament clearly underwent great changes from the earliest to the latest sources, has errors that would have made God a very poor editor, makes all the other 200 or so gospels that existed also divinely inspired, and requires us to obey its laws because God wrote them: women must sit quietly in church and not speak; women must cover their heads in church; people must not marry unless they “burn” with lust; the wealthy must sell everything they have and give the money to the poor, preachers must live off of what families give them without owning anything; and on and on. The idea that these normal, everyday human beings who wrote the books in the canon channeled God is simply untenable. More than that, however, the church, that wants us to believe the Bible is the divinely written, only authority, freely writes its own interpretations and laws, meaning it believes the Bible is divinely inspired only for those parts it says are so, and itself receives new words from the Holy Spirit when other human beings can’t.
No writer of a text now in the New Testament canon claimed to be channeling God. None started the text with “What follows came to me word for word from God. Obey it.” In fact, Luke begins by saying many have written down what they know about Yeshua and he was simply writing down a version. If God had wanted to channel a gospel account of Yeshua’s life and teachings, God certainly wouldn’t have done it in as many as 200 gospels that existed in the early church or the four different, at times conflicting accounts in the four gospels in the canon.
Paul referred to himself as an ordinary man and never once suggested that he was channeling God. The notion that this early missionary of the church was writing words God dictated to him is simply preposterous.
- Should we give money to the church? You likely said, “Yes, we should tithe.” But that’s not what the Old Testament or New Testament teach.
The "tithe" in the Old Testament was a 10th of an Israelite's "increase," meaning all grain gathered at the harvest and livestock that had been born during the year. It was very clearly God's 10% and was to be used for nothing other than as God commanded it to be used. The writers were very clear that the tithe was God's property. Here is how the tithe was to be used as described in the Old Testament:
The tithes were supposed to be consumed by the people who gave them in an atmosphere of celebration, sharing, and communion with God. Every third year, they were to be given to the orphans, widows, and Levites (who served religious and political duties but owned no land).
- The tithe never referred to money: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is The tithe referred to a one-time annual event at harvest: ". . . the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree . . ." (Lev. 27:30).
- The harvest happened only once a year. If every tenth animal had been given every week or every month, the Israelite would have been out of livestock in a few months. The increase was what was born during the entire year.
- The tithe belonged to God and was to be used only as God commanded: "And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad" (Lev.27:32-33).
- The people were to eat the tithe themselves, before God, in communion with each other and God (not give it to the church): "You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine. . . . But you must eat them before the Lord your God. . . . you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God" (Deu.12:17-19). Also, "You shall truly tithe all the increase . . . year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God . . . the tithe of your grain and your new wine... that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always" (Deu.14:22-23).
- If they couldn't carry the tithed grain and livestock that belonged to God, they were to sell it and buy things for themselves (not the church): "But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe . . . then you shall exchange it for money. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (Deu.14:24-26).
- Every third year, the tithe was to be given to the Levites (who didn't own land), orphans, and widows: "You shall not forsake the Levite. At the end of every third year you shall bring the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, and the fatherless and the widow . . . may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deu.14:27-29 and Deu. 26:12).
The tithe was not intended to pay for huge cathedrals, expensive cars, lavish ceremonies, or a wealthy lifestyle by the clergy. Nothing in the Hebrew commandments suggests that.
The idea of tithing is notably absent from the New Testament, except once when Yeshua castigated the scribes and Pharisees for tithing a 10th of their sweet-smelling plants as a show of righteousness when they weren't following the weightier concerns of the law: just judgment, mercy, and faith. He said they should do both. But Yeshua said nothing anywhere about the Jews giving 10% of their income to the priests.
As far as what the clergy who followed him were to do, Yeshua said to his disciples to take no money with them, but ". . . remain in the same house [with those whom you are teaching], eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages" (Luke 10:7).
Paul never mentions tithing, even though he was giving instructions for how the local churches were to be run.
In other words, there never was an instruction in the Old or New Testaments that suggested people should give 10% of their income every Sunday to the church to do with as it wished!
However, any interpretation of tithing must conclude that the tithe belongs to God. It doesn't belong to the church! And the people who give the tithe are to consume it themselves, before God, in communion with God.
- If I use my money spiritually, will I be in better standing with God? You likely said, “Yes, we should give to the poor and use money to help others.” But that’s not what Yeshua taught.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are of Caesar, and unto God the things that are of God,” Yeshua is reported to have said. Money in no wise has spiritual value. There is no use to which money can be put that is spiritual. Money belongs to the physical realm. Only the sentiment that results in freely giving money is spiritual; only the desire to help others that results in spending money is spiritual. The person is no more spiritual after following through with the act of giving money than before, and the act of giving money is superfluous to the desire that arises from compassion.
A wealthy person who gives $1 million dollars to charity is no more spiritual than the parishioner who gives $2 in the offering plate. Neither act is spiritual. If he wealthy person gives the money to show her righteousness and charity, then the act has no spiritual significance. If the parishioner gives $2 to support a food pantry out of love for those who need food, the donation still has no spiritual value—but the parishioner’s sentiment is entirely spiritual.
Money has nothing to do with spirituality. There is nothing you can do with money that is spiritual. Instead, ministering to others demonstrates the level of spirituality you are already at. Ministering to others, even when that is difficult or causes temporary problems helps a person to grow spiritually. However, the money is incidental. The ministry could be through service, prayer, moving others to be compassionate, and simply being compassionate. The money is something that is a means to the end of being ministerial.
If you want to use your money, instead of giving money to the church that will spend it on material things and give a small amount for charity, walk down to the local food pantry that gives food to needy families, or to the homeless shelter, or to some family whose breadwinner was just disabled . . . take out your wallet and put the money in their hands. That was what Yeshua taught.
If you're praying to Yeshua and seeking Yeshua and wanting Yeshua to come into your life, if there is one homeless person or one hungry person or one poor person in your town, that person is the Yeshua you've been seeking: "I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. . . . to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." (Matthew 25:42-45).
Spiritually, money is meaningless. Giving money has no spiritual significance. A person who relies on money to earn spiritual points has sold his soul to mammon. Buying things for the church will not earn someone a place in Heaven. Buying indulgences will not get someone out of a mythological purgatory. Sending donations to a televangelist who guarantees the amount will be returned in full measure, pressed down, shaken together and spilling over won't result in anything except an empty wallet. There is nothing spiritual about giving money to a church or a preacher. And God can't be bought.
It is the love and compassion a person feels that might encourage them to give money to the poor that is spiritual. If the love and compassion are there, the person should walk down to the homeless shelter, sit down across from a man, woman, or child living there, talk to that person and share their life, and then put the money in their hand. If the money is coming from love and compassion, that will be what the giver will want to do.
Judge the organization to which you're giving money using the same spiritual measure you use for yourself. Is all the money going to the poor and needy? Is a dime going into a new house for the pastor when one person in the town is homeless? Do those supported by your money do anything harmful to children? Does the church to which you're giving money support a country that engages in war? Does the pastor spend her time with the needy, ministering to them? If you contribute to churches that are themselves not spiritual, then you simply delaying people from advancing spiritually themselves by encouraging a hollow spirituality, and you may be aiding an organization that condones the rape of souls.
There is no condemnation or judgment. You are not evil if you give to a church that does evil things. Money is meaningless. It has no spiritual significance. It belongs to Caesar, not to God. Spiritual actions are those that show love and compassion. Be loving and compassionate. Spread your money on the surface of a lake or gamble it in casinos or give it to the church. It makes no difference spiritually. However, invite a hungry man or woman into the restaurant you're about to enter and buy them dinner without expectation of notice or return—that is loving and compassionate—that is spiritual.
Yeshua said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mat.19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22) And also, "Sell what you have and give alms [to the poor]; provide yourselves a treasure in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:33-34).
It's impossible to justify the lavish lifestyles of the clergy who profess to be followers of Yeshua, but just as impossible to understand that the money they have strewn about through 20 centuries has been given freely by people who have never understood Yeshua’s words.
The issue is not and never has been whether a person will be worthy of the kingdom of God by doing this or doing that. Giving money to the poor doesn't earn points that accumulate so someone wins the big prize. Yeshua’s words focused on "provide yourselves a treasure in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If a person learns to be loving and compassionate, that will be treasure in the kingdom of God—nothing material has worth there. Giving to the poor is an outpouring of the treasure the person has through material things that are meaningless, but that will give comfort to someone who needs them in the material realm. The giver holds out a hand full of love and compassion and the receiver lifts from it the money or object that will help him be more comfortable. The giver shares his treasure that is of great price in the kingdom of God, and the person in need receives what he needs.
If someone clings to money or material objects, then that is where their treasure is. They can't have love and compassion and want for themselves. As the Kabbalists say, "I want everything for myself." Wealth is only a sign of that focus on the material; it isn't evil or unspiritual. Money has no relationship to spirituality—whether you have it or not. But if someone has money over his or her needs, then that means that person doesn't see someone else's needs to use the money to fulfill them.
If a person gives everything to the poor, the spiritual maturity is already there—was there before the money was given. If a person holds money and accumulates wealth, the spiritual weakness is already there—it was there from the first penny the person accumulated over what he needed.
In the next century, it will be difficult for people to give up everything they own. Others are hording, so they have to horde. It will be when everyone is a servant and everyone seeks opportunities go give away everything they own that it will be possible to give freely and have only what we need. We won't see that. Our children's children's children may see that. But they won't see it if we don't move the stone away from the opening an inch during our lifetimes.