“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.”
In this section of Matthew 23, Jesus goes through seven “woes” directed at the religious leaders of the day…many of which apply to us “regular folk”, too. I love this one because it strikes at the heart of religiosity where love and compassion are absent. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were meticulous in their adherence to the Mosaic Law (tithing in this case), yet their lives were marked by a lack of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
For many of us, our Christianity is expressed most obviously in our adherence to religious activities such as church attendance, Bible study groups, praying before a meal, serving at church, and giving away some portion of our income. We can “check off” all those boxes, but still be far from the heart of God. Don’t get me wrong…these things are not “wrong” in and of themselves, but they are no substitute for living a life marked by justice, mercy and faithfulness.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
The abundant life that Jesus died to give us does not reside in another “to-do list” of religious activity. If you think perfect attendance at church makes you a “good Christian” then you are missing the point. What pleases the Lord is HOW you live…not the activities you cast at His feet in order to say “I showed up and did what I was supposed to do.”
Some of the least loving, least compassionate and most unmerciful people I have ever encountered grew up in the church and are still regular attendees! They probably tithe and serve and sing all the hymns…but like the Pharisees, their hearts are hard and their interactions with people, both inside and outside of the church, are callous. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your performance on these religious duties is what the “Christian life” is all about. If you do, then Jesus is looking you right in the eye saying, “Woe to you, too.”