Challenging Words from Jesus

Here are some words from Jesus that should challenge us:

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!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

Matthew 23:23-28

When Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, he challenges them on the fact that they are quick to give, but they neglect the hard and dirty part of involving their lives in "weightier matters":  "justice and mercy and faithfulness."  He describes the problem, and he's quick to get to the "heart" of the issue.  In verses 25-28, he examines the heart of the Pharisees.  He tells them that they look good on the outside, but all of their good and moral actions come from a hypocritical and selfish heart.

Here are two practical suggestions that I've been thinking about regarding this passage:

  • Think about ways that you're involved in the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
  • What is the heart behind your involvement in those things?

As you consider those two things, read what happens next: right after Jesus speaks these challenging words to the Pharisees, he laments over the city of Jerusalem:

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! "

Matthew 23:37

If we'll admit it, we are all at some point like the people in Jerusalem.  We are broken and rebellious people who reject God with our words, deeds, lives, and hearts.  The good news is that Jesus pursues us.  He has called us back into relationship with the him.  He gathers us just as a "hen gathers her brood under her wings."

When we understand this, we'll be motivated to "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  And this will come from a heart that is not hypocritical or self-indulgent.  Our hearts won't be greedy or selfish.  We will realize the extravagance of the gift that we have been given, and we'll be propelled to love extravagantly.

So be involved with what Jesus calls the "weightier matters."  But as you do, remember the gospel and let that motivate you.