“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)
Jesus really steps up his criticism of the religious leaders of his day – seven ‘woes’ that pull no punches. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading. Jesus pointed out that in many ways they were talking the talk, but not walking the walk of holiness and righteousness. They were engaging in an exercise of entirely missing the point. For example, while the teachers of the law assiduously tithed their income, they too often ignored the commands to love God and their neighbour through the exercise of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Both were important, but the latter far more so.
Jesus’ words remind me of Samuel’s rebuke to Saul: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) David was looking for a short cut in worshipping God. But there are no shortcuts; obedience, especially in loving of God and neighbour, is our true worship. I am a short cut wired guy. The temptation to cut corners, to be half-hearted or lukewarm in my devotion is ever before me.
Thank you Jesus that you held nothing back in your love for me. Help me to hold nothing back in return. Amen.