Do Not Sell Wisdom, Instruction, and Understanding!
The words “Do not sell wisdom, instruction, and understanding” belong to the richest and wisest man ever born. Yet, he says when you obtain the truth (wisdom) from the Scripture, do not sell it for money. In this article we will study what his descendant Yeshua the Messiah says concerning this controversial topic of selling wisdom, instruction, and understanding. In Mat 10:8 he says: “Freely you have received, freely you give”.
Obtain truth and do not sell wisdom, instruction, and understanding. Pro 23:23
Did Yeshua teach His disciples to sell wisdom?
We read in Matthew 10 that Yeshua sent the twelve disciples having commanded them not to go into the lands of the gentiles and not to enter the cities of the Samaritans, but rather go the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat 10:1-6). He further commanded them:
Do not take wages. Without cost you have received, without cost you give. Do not heap up silver and gold, nor wealth in your purse, nor changes of clothes, nor shoes, nor a staff in your hands. The workman is worthy to receive enough for his food. (Mat 10:8-10)
The Greek text of Mat 10:8 has omitted the phrase Do not take wages, which however appears in the ancient Hebrew text of Matthew, as translated by George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 1995.
And on another occasion the Messiah sent seventy others, two by two He sent them, into every city where He Himself was about to go, commanding them the same:
Do not take a purse, nor a bag, nor sandals. And greet no one along the way. And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ … And stay in the same house, eating and drinking whatever with them, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not move from house to house. “And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat whatever is placed before you, (Luk 10:4-8)
And when they returned from their mission, He asked them,
When I sent you without purse and bag and sandals, did you lack any? And they said, None at all. (Luk 22:35)
The 1611 KJV translation has rendered the command in Mat 10:8 “Without cost you have received, without cost you give” as “freely you have received, freely you give.”
This translation is not necessarily bad since “freely” is an adverb which enhances the verbs “to receive” and “to give.” The phrase “freely you have received, freely you give” back then in 1611 was taken to be understood as “you have received for free; you give for free.” And this is how it should have been understood today since adverb-verb relation has not changed in English.
However, today due to a lot of religious burden and bias this same phrase has been made to imply that we have received “abundantly” and “abundantly” we are to give. Although, it is true, this is not what Yeshua the Messiah commanded His disciples. And thus, this private interpretation of Mat 10:8 changes the whole meaning of the commission the disciples received.
In Hebrew, the phrase in question “Without cost you have received, without cost you give” reads as follows,
חִנָּם קבלתם ובחנם תתנו
In Hebrew Gospel of Matthew aka Shem Tov (Good Name) Hebrew Matthew, the word for “without cost” or “freely” is the same word חִנָּם chinam, which means “gratis”, that is, devoid of cost, reason or advantage, without a cause (cost, wages), causeless, to cost nothing, free (-ly). Its literal meaning appears in Num 11:5 when the children of Israel rebelled against Mosheh in the wilderness,
We remember the fish which we ate without cost (chinam) in Egypt, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, (Num 11:5)
חִנָּם chinam derives from the Hebrew word חֵן chein, which is commonly translated into English as graciousness, kindness, favor. Hardly we can translate chinam in Num 11:5 as “abundantly” since we cannot expect the Egyptians had fed the Hebrew slaves abundantly. But for more insight on the meaning of the Hebrew word chein, grace, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article By Grace You Are Saved! But What is Grace?
With that being said, we see that Yeshua sent His disciples to do His will without pay, free of cost, that is, to receive no monetary rewards in return. Wherever they would go they were told to take nothing, nothing with them; only the food they were to eat “for the laborer is worthy of his wages”. In other words, the provided food in hospitality was to be their wages to nourish the bodies, but nothing in excess, much less money.
Did the apostles teach to sell wisdom?
More understanding of the words of Yeshua may be acquired by examining a statement by Josephus concerning the Essene sect of the first century Judaism which had a similar rule:
…and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own; and they go into such as they never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them. For which reason they carry nothing with them when they travel into remote parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves. Accordingly, there is in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers, and provide garments and other necessaries for them. (Josephus; Wars 2:8:4)
But what is more important is how the apostles taught and practiced Yeshua’s words. The apostolic teachings (Greek, didache) can be found in a first century work The Didache, also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”, or “The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles”. The Didache is considered the example of the first Messianic community Orders. It also reveals how the first Jewish believers in Yeshua saw themselves and how they adapted Yeshua’s teachings on the matter. We read from The Didache as it relates to our topic:
Chapter 11. Let every apostle, when he comes to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abides three days, he is a false prophet. And when he departs let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he finds shelter; but if he asks money, he is a false prophet. But whoever says in the Spirit, “Give me money, or something else”, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.
Chapter 12. But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is an artisan, let him work and eat.
Chapter 13. But every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his food. So also, a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his food.
Hence, we see that the twelve apostles taught and practice exactly what Yeshua the Messiah had taught them, namely, that no monetary gain was to be asked for teaching the Gospel. What Yeshua taught and what His disciples taught afterwards can be basically narrowed down to this: a preacher or a teacher is to be received and provided temporary lodging and food during his stay as a good sign of hospitality, and this is to be his wage. He is not to ask money and not to be given any.
Do the rabbis teach for money?
But how does Judaism see the matter? Do they teach the Torah for money? The sages say:
Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages but be like servants who serve their master with no thought of a wage – and let the fear of Heaven be upon you. (Avot 1:3)
And also, on Deu 4:14, Talmud, Nedarim 37a teaches the following:
From here is derived that it is forbidden to receive payment for teaching Torah: just as I (Moses) taught you the Torah free of charge, so too must you teach it for free. (Talmud, Nedarim 37a)
But the most direct statement against any form of teaching for money is found in Rabbinical writing Derek Eretz Zutta 4:3 where we read:
Teach the Torah gratis and take no fee for it: for the words of the Torah no fees must be taken, seeing that God gave the Torah gratis. He who takes a fee for the Torah destroys the world.
We should note how the words of the Sages echo the very words of Yeshua the Messiah. And they do not just say it, but they do it: no Orthodox Rabbi takes money for teaching the Word of YHVH, the Torah.
We also find in the Tanak, that the corrupted priests taught for money, as we read from Mic 3:11,
Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for hire and her prophets divine for a price. Yet they lean on Yehovah, and say, Is not Yehovah in our midst? Evil does not come upon us. (Mic 3:11)
But what do we see today? We see religious leaders, or the so-called “professional priesthood” (as they call themselves) sitting in air-conditioned offices all week long, and on Sundays they teach the doctrines of men for hire and for a price. This is contrary to what Yeshua the Messiah teaches in Mat 10:8-10. Yet they say ‘We trust in God. The Holy Spirit is in our midst. God has good plans for you, etc., etc.’ in order to fulfill the words of YHVH through Micah the Prophet: “priests teach for hire and her prophets divine for a price”.
And they are not even good teachers, because after the baskets are full of paychecks, they start teaching the doctrines of men: the Torah of YHVH is done away with, contrary to what Yeshua the Messiah teaches in Mat 5:17-20. Yet they say they preach the “Word of God”. For more understanding of whether the Messiah of YHVH has abolished the Law, refer to the article Has the Messiah Abolished the Law?
But which is even more shocking for us today is that those preachers on payroll are called false prophets by the apostles; by the Rabbis: the destroyers of the world, and by the Messiah himself: hirelings.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. But the hireling, and not being a shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees. And the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. Now the hireling flees because he is a hireling and is not concerned about the sheep. (Joh 10:11-13)
For more insight on this controversy, the reader may refer to the articles Is There Any Place for “Professional Priesthood” Today?, “Do not Muzzle an Ox while it is Threshing!” Did Paul Claim the Tithes?
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!
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