Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Matthew 23:23

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Ye pay tithe of mint, etc. - They were remarkably scrupulous in the performance of all the rites and ceremonies of religion, but totally neglected the soul, spirit, and practice of godliness.

Judgment - Acting according to justice and equity towards all mankind. Mercy - to the distressed and miserable. And faith in God as the fountain of all righteousness, mercy, and truth. The scribes and Pharisees neither began nor ended their works in God, nor had they any respect unto his name in doing them. They did them to be seen of men, and they had their reward - human applause.

These ought ye to have done, etc. - Our Lord did not object to their paying tithe even of common pot-herbs - this did not affect the spirit of religion; but while they did this and such like, to the utter neglect of justice, mercy, and faith, they showed that they had no religion, and knew nothing of its nature.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Ye pay tithe - A tenth part. The law required the Jews to devote a tenth part of all their property to the support of the Levites, Numbers 18:20-24. Another tenth part they paid for the service of the sanctuary, commonly in cattle or grain, but where they lived far from the place of worship they changed it to money, Deuteronomy 14:22-24. Besides these, there was to be every third year a tenth part given to the poor, to be eaten at their own dwellings Deuteronomy 14:28-29; so that nearly one-third of the property of the Jews was devoted to religious services by law. This was besides the voluntary offerings which they made. How much more mild and gentle are the laws of Christianity under which we live!

Mint - A garden herb, in the original so called from its agreeable flavor. It was used to sprinkle the floors of their houses and synagogues to produce a pleasant fragrance.

Anise - Known commonly among us as “dill.” It has a fine aromatic smell, and is used by confectioners and perfumers.

Cummin - A plant of the same genus, like “fennel,” and used for similar purposes. These were all herbs of little value. The law of Moses said that they should pay tithes of the “fruits of the earth,” Deuteronomy 14:22. It said nothing, however, about herbs. It was a question whether these should be tithed. The Pharisees maintained, in their extraordinary strictness, that they ought. Our Saviour says that they were precise in doing small matters which the law had not expressly commanded, while they omitted the greater things which it had enjoined.

Judgment - Justice to others, as magistrates, neighbors, citizens. Giving to all their just dues.

Mercy - Compassion and kindness to the poor and miserable.

Faith - Piety toward God; confidence in him. Faith in God here means that we are to give to him what is his due; as mercy and justice mean to do to people, in all circumstances, what is right toward them.

These ought ye to have done - Attention to even the smallest points of the law of God is proper, but it should not interfere with the “higher” and more important parts of that law.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.
Ellen G. White
Evangelism, 212

The commandment of God that has been almost universally made void, is the testing truth for this time.... The time is coming when all those who worship God will be distinguished by this sign. They will be known as the servants of God, by this mark of their allegiance to Heaven. But all man-made tests will divert the mind from the great and important doctrines that constitute the present truth. Ev 212.1

It is the desire and plan of Satan to bring in among us those who will go to great extremes—people of narrow minds, who are critical and sharp, and very tenacious in holding their own conceptions of what the truth means. They will be exacting, and will seek to enforce rigorous duties, and go to great lengths in matters of minor importance, while they neglect the weightier matters of the law—judgment and mercy and the love of God. Through the work of a few of this class of persons, the whole body of Sabbathkeepers will be designated as bigoted, Pharisaical, and fanatical. The work of the truth, because of these workers, will be thought to be unworthy of notice. Ev 212.2

God has a special work for the men of experience to do. They are to guard the cause of God. They are to see that the work of God is not committed to men who feel it their privilege to move out on their own independent judgment, to preach whatever they please, and to be responsible to no one for their instructions or work. Let this spirit of self-sufficiency once rule in our midst, and there will be no harmony of action, no unity of spirit, no safety for the work, and no healthful growth in the cause. There will be false teachers, evil workers who will, by insinuating error, draw away souls from the truth. Christ prayed that His followers might be one as He and the Father were one. Those who desire to see this prayer answered, should seek to discourage the slightest tendency to division, and try to keep the spirit of unity and love among brethren.—The Review and Herald, May 29, 1888. Ev 212.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 157

Not long since I heard a mother say that she liked to see a house fitly constructed, that defects in the arrangement and mismatched woodwork in the finishing annoyed her. I do not condemn nice taste in this respect, but as I listened to her, I regretted that this nicety could not have been brought into her methods of managing her children. These were buildings for whose framing she was responsible; yet their rough, uncourteous ways, their passionate, selfish natures, and uncontrolled wills, were painfully apparent to others. Ill-formed characters, mismatched pieces of humanity, indeed they were, yet the mother was blind to it all. The arrangement of her house was of more consequence to her than the symmetry of her children's character. FE 157.1

Cleanliness and order are Christian duties, yet even these may be carried too far, and made the one essential, while matters of greater importance are neglected. Those who neglect the interests of the children for these considerations are tithing the mint and cummin, while they neglect the weightier matters of the law,—justice, mercy, and the love of God. FE 157.2

Those children who are the most indulged become willful, passionate, and unlovely. Would that parents could realize that upon judicious, early training depends the happiness of both the parents and the children. Who are these little ones that are committed to our care? They are the younger members of the Lord's family. “Take this son, this daughter,” He says, “nurse them for me, and fit them up ‘that they may be polished after the similitude of a palace,’ that they may shine in the courts of the Lord.” Precious work! Important work! Yet we see mothers sighing for a wider field of labor, for some missionary work to do. If they could only go to Africa or India, they would feel that they were doing something. But to take up the little daily duties of life, and to carry them forward faithfully, perseveringly, seems to them an unimportant thing. Why is this? Is it not often because the mother's work is so rarely appreciated? She has a thousand cares and burdens of which the father seldom has any knowledge. Too often he returns home bringing with him his cares and business perplexities to overshadow the family, and if he does not find everything just to his mind at home, he gives expression to his feelings in impatience and faultfinding. He can boast of what he has achieved through the day, but the mother's work, to his mind, amounts to little, or is at least undervalued. To him her cares appear trifling. She has only to cook the meals, look after the children, sometimes a large family of them, and keep the house in order. She has tried all day to keep the domestic machinery running smoothly. She has tried, though tired and perplexed, to speak kindly and cheerfully, and to instruct the children and keep them in the right path. All this has cost effort, and much patience on her part. She cannot, in her turn, boast of what she has done. It seems to her as though she has accomplished nothing. But it is not so. Though the results of her work are not apparent, angels of God are watching the careworn mother, noting the burdens she carries from day to day. Her name may never appear upon the records of history, or receive the honor and applause of the world, as may that of the husband and father; but it is immortalized in the book of God. She is doing what she can, and her position in God's sight is more exalted than that of a king upon his throne; for she is dealing with character, she is fashioning minds. FE 157.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 79

Read the words of Christ in Matthew 23:23: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” These denunciations are given as a warning to all who “outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within” “are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” They say, We are delivered to do all these things. They also say, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore,” said Jesus, “ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.” What lessons are here; how fearful and decisive! Jesus said, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.” This prophecy was literally fulfilled by the Jews in their treatment of Christ and of the messengers whom God sent to them. Will men in these last days follow the example of those whom Christ condemned? TM 79.1

These terrible predictions they have not as yet carried out to the full; but if God spares their lives, and they nourish the same spirit that marked their course of action both before and after the Minneapolis meeting, [See Appendix.] they will fill up to the full the deeds of those whom Christ condemned when He was upon the earth. TM 79.2

The perils of the last days are upon us. Satan takes the control of every mind that is not decidedly under the control of the Spirit of God. Some have been cultivating hatred against the men whom God has commissioned to bear a special message to the world. They began this satanic work at Minneapolis. Afterward, when they saw and felt the demonstration of the Holy Spirit testifying that the message was of God, they hated it the more, because it was a testimony against them. They would not humble their hearts to repent, to give God the glory, and vindicate the right. They went on in their own spirit, filled with envy, jealousy, and evil surmisings, as did the Jews. They opened their hearts to the enemy of God and man. Yet these men have been holding positions of trust, and have been molding the work after their own similitude, as far as they possibly could.... TM 79.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 428

For the sake of making money, many divorce themselves from God and ignore their eternal interests. They pursue the same course as the scheming, worldly man, but God is not in this; it is an offense to Him. He would have them prompt to devise and execute plans; but all business matters should be transacted in harmony with the great moral law of God. The principles of love to God and our neighbor must be carried out in all the acts of the daily life, the least as well as the greatest. There must be a spirit to do more than pay tithes on mint, anise, and cummin; the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and the love of God, must not be neglected; for the personal character of each one connected with the work leaves its impress upon it. 5T 428.1

There are men and women who have left all for Christ's sake. Their own temporal interests, their own enjoyment of society and of family and friends, are made of less importance than the interests of the kingdom of God. They have not made houses and lands, and relatives and friends however dear, first in their affections, and God's cause second. And those who do this, who devote their lives to the advancement of the truth, to bringing many sons and daughters to God, have the promise that they shall have a hundredfold in this life and in the world to come life everlasting. Those who work from a noble standpoint and with unselfish motives will be consecrated to God, body, soul, and spirit. They will not exalt self; they will not feel competent to take responsibilities; but they will not refuse to bear burdens, for they will have a desire to do all that they are capable of doing. These will not study their own convenience; the question with them will be: What is duty? 5T 428.2

The more responsible the position, the more essential that the influence be right. Every man whom God has chosen to do a special work becomes a target for Satan. Temptations press thick and fast upon him; for our vigilant foe knows that his course of action has a molding influence upon others. We are amid the perils of the last days, and Satan has come down in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time. He works with all deceivableness of unrighteousness; but heaven is open to everyone who makes God his trust. The only safety for any of us is in clinging to Jesus and letting nothing separate the soul from the mighty Helper. 5T 428.3

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