Matthew 23:13-39; Numbers 23:27-24:25; Song of Solomon 5:2-6:3
Sometimes as a teacher I get nit-picky when I’m grading. I take off points for missing, or extra, commas. I subtract for wrong use of capitalization. Incomplete sentences get point deductions as well. I spend so much time looking for those issues that I often miss the story a student is telling. The Pharisees had a similar problem. “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) The Pharisees spent so much time worrying about the minutia that they neglected what was important. Rather than taking the time to count out their cumin seeds so that they could give one out of ten to God, they needed to focus on things like justice, mercy and faithfulness – all qualities that would come because of a positive relationship with God. It’s so easy to do that as a Christian, too. We have our checklists of things Christians do. We work hard to go over our checklists and spend so much time focused on them that we overlook needs in our own community. Sometimes we even participate in cases of injustice; we fail to show mercy; or we spend so much time on little things we think we can get away with other sins. Jesus never said to neglect giving to God – what He said was that we need to look at the bigger picture of life. Where do we need to seek justice? Where do we need to extend mercy? How can we show our faithfulness to God?
Lord, so often I think that I’m doing well in my relationship with You because I can check off all the things that I’ve done. Remind me that following You, loving You, isn’t about checking things off a list. Remind me that following You happens as I spend time with You and develop a relationship with You. When I do that, I can see others as You see them and work for justice and show mercy.