“23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (ESV)
Last week, we spoke about this push within the church toward a more grace-centered faith. As I said in the articles, I have enjoyed this gentler and more compassionate aspect to the church. The church, embracing the fullness of Jesus’ heart, and loving each other has made church, worship, and my own faith much more enjoyable. I hope you have noticed this and are happy about it as well.
But today, I need to express a word of caution. Just because we have embraced a softer, gentler side of the faith. Just because we are focusing more on God’s grace and mercy doesn’t mean that we are free to stop doing the things we have been doing.
Embracing a softer, more compassionate side of the faith is great as long as we stay balanced in our theology and actions.
In the passage listed above, Jesus is strongly condemning the Pharisees for overly emphasizing precision obedience. They were so precise with their works that they even gave a tithe of their spices used in cooking. For Jesus, this was not the problem. The problem was that they allowed their precision obedience to push them to forget the weightier things like “Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.”
Jesus often clashed with the religious elite of his day over such things. They excelled at knowing the Law of God and enforcing that on others. The problem was that in their push to learn and obey the commands of God they had forgotten the heart of their faith. They were likely the very people who could quote book, chapter, and verse for every command and every action. Yet, when Jesus chooses to love, healing a man on the Sabbath day, stating that doing good on the Sabbath was always a good thing (Matt. 12:9-14). The Pharisees could only see that a rule (tradition) had been broken and thus Jesus had to die. They totally missed the point that a man had been healed; that a life had been changed for the better. Their focus on the rules had blinded them to the reality that a man was much more valuable than the animal they would have helped.
My point is simple. For far too long we have been blind to the reality and necessity of love for each other. Blind to the reality that each person is more important than blind adherence to the rules. A push toward a grace centered faith is a good thing.
Let’s just be cautious that we don’t let go of what we know Jesus expects in the process.
Our goal must always be a balanced faith that follows Jesus in all things.
As Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, don’t forget to keep the rules but don’t forget to love and be compassionate either.