You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. (Luke 11:42)

THE PHARISEES WERE AN INTERESTING group of people. If they thought something was wrong, they avoided it like the plague. If they thought something was right, they practiced it to a fault.

Take tithing for instance. The Old Testament commanded it. God told His people, “‘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 you will not have room enough for it'” (Mal. 3:10).

So the Pharisees did what they typically did—took something good and went to the extreme. They even tithed their little herb gardens. Can’t you just see them—counting every little herb to be sure they scrupulously gave one tenth of everything to the priest?

It’s possible to take a good thing and be so intense about it that you turn what should be a joyful experience into a burden. Instead of joyfully giving their tithe to support the work of God, they made themselves and others miserable in their meticulous practices.

Paul reminded us that we should “give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). So give generously, without neglecting things like justice, love, and a gracious spirit toward others.

Remember, you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

Ron McClung lives in Fishers, Indiana, with his wife Carol, and works for The Wesleyan Church. They have two sons, nine grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters.