The Weightier Matters
I was the Bible teacher at summer camp. On Thursday night after making sure all the campers were bedded down in their cabins with their counselors, the program staff was getting away for some pizza. I paired off with a pastor friend so we could split our order, and I started making suggestions, “Pepperoni and Cheese, Sausage and Cheese, Bacon and Cheese.” He rejected each of my suggestions and grimaced with disgust, especially at the last one. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. “What’s your problem?” His response made it clear, “I’ve made a commitment to the food laws of Leviticus. I’m kosher!” I decided that it was too late to launch into the Apostle Paul’s stress in Colossians against getting scrupulous about food now that the Messiah has come. So I settled for cheese only.
Jesus’ attack against the Pharisees about their scrupulous tithing of even the dill and the cumin (small herbs and seeds used for seasoning) and straining their wine so that they didn’t take a chance of swallowing an unclean insect like a gnat is often viewed as anti-Jewish. In fact if we read the text, we discover that in His earthly ministry Jesus encouraged Jews to keep their laws (Matthew 23:23). What He castigated their leaders about was neglecting the more weighty matters.
“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, play actors! For you tithe the 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. You blind guides, straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.” Matthew 23:23-24
A couple of years after the kosher-pizza incident I asked another pastor about our scrupulous colleague. “Haven’t you heard? He had an affair, and it blew up his marriage.” My friend was careful not to eat pork or mix beef and cheese, but he forgot about “Don’t commit adultery.”
Maybe I should’ve reminded him that night about what Paul, a Pharisee, had to say about getting religiously picky about your food. “These have an appearance of wisdom in their strong willed observance of religious rules, their appearance of humility, and ascetic treatment of bodily appetites. In fact they carry no weight at all in stopping the indulgence of our sin nature.” Colossians 2:23
LORD, protect me from swallowing unclean “camels” in my life today—the obvious and weighty stuff like not being faithful to Mary in my thought life or my actions. Thank You that You are just, but You also are merciful. I continue to pray that You will restore my friend. Bring him to the place where he admits the horror of his immorality, but rests in the power of Your blood to wash him whiter than snow.
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