16 May 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 23:23-24 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23–24 NLT)
What sorrow was Jesus talking about? He may have been talking about the sorrow they’ll experience at the judgment on those who didn’t feed the hungry and thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and care for prisoners. He may have been talking about the loss they’ll experience when their carefully constructed religious system collapses as Jerusalem is destroyed by Titus in AD 70. He may have been talking about the sense of emptiness they’ll feel at the end of their lives when they discover that true religion is what James describes here: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27 NLT)
The “Teachers of religious law and Pharisees” were so careful to adhere to the very letter of the law! The law said to tithe on their increase, so they carefully measured out one tenth of their garden seed, mint leaves, and the dill they used to make pickles. But somehow they were able to completely ignore the plight of the poor, the homeless, and the foreigners who came to live among them. They judged as sinners everyone who failed to keep the letter of the law as they interpreted it. And their religious standing with God was based entirely on their pride of performance, not on faith in God’s grace.
Friends, the thing that’s really scary is how clearly I can see the tendency toward empty religion and a Pharisaical attitude in me! These same tendencies are in me and if I don’t keep my heart open to the convicting work of God’s Spirit, I can so quickly become picky, petty, critical, and judgmental of others! How about you?
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. 14 May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14 NLT)