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Daily Thought - The Eight Woes - Part Six - Swallowing Camels

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Apr 29, 2014.

  1. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! - Matthew 23: 23-24 (NKJV)

    ***Author's Note - I had been writing mistakenly that there were seven woes listed in this section of Scripture. It is in fact eight woes. Apologies.

    As we continue in our exposition of the eight woes spoken by Jesus over the Pharisees and scribes we come to the fifth woe. It is another woe that should resonate within the walls of the church today all too well. Another warning for us today as followers of Jesus Christ. That our adherence to religion should never ignore whom the religion is centered upon. That our observance of the law should not be more important than the lawgiver. That why we do something is more important than actually doing it. Far too often we engage in Machiavellian Christianity where we think the ends we achieve justify the means we undertake to get there. How often do we hear the excuse of "reaching as many for Christ" given for undermining His Gospel? Just this past week there were stories of marijuana distributors for Jesus, a Resurrection Sunday sermon hidden within a musical rendition of the Star Wars movie, and a new church forming in an active strip club. Somehow, I think the weightier matters are being lost amidst the pious excuses. I think I have seen it all in just the past decade. Easter bunnies on the altar of God. Bring your gun to church day. Ultimate fighting pastors (No, I am not kidding - cage match and all). Halloween celebrations disguised as harvest festivals or "trunk and treats." All to pursue relevance to a culture that is sending people to hell. All because the Gospel appears to be insufficient to many who proclaim to believe in it. What do we see in this woe? First of all the Pharisees were all about appearances.

    But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ - Matthew 23: 5-7 (NKJV)

    Let's face it. These verses could have been written today about many churches. There has been an invasion of a showy "look at me" spirit in modern Pentecostalism. The payment of tithes, which is clearly not a New Testament requirement, is lifted above almost everything else. I have seen services where more Scripture was used in trying to defend the offering than in the sermon! Yet in those same settings the weightier matters are given lip service. What does Jesus lay out for us as the weightier matters? Perhaps quoting from the Prophet Micah, Jesus explains that we should never neglect justice, mercy and faith.

    He has shown you, O man, what is good;And what does the Lord require of youBut to do justly,To love mercy,And to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6: 8 (NKJV)

    These are not suggestions beloved. It is what the Lord requires of us. They are the underpinning to what He has preached and taught us. The very same Pharisees who loved to hold the greatest places of honor were also the ones who made sure they profited from illicit gains. The same ones who made sure to make a spectacle of tithing ten percent of their mint and cummin were the very same who devoured widows estates. We are called not just to hold to some letter of law but to do justly in all we undertake. What good does it do if we give obediently to God yet disobey by treating others unjustly? What is our witness for Christ? What does that have to do with it preacher? I'll tell you. Things like tithing and Christian intricacies are all but lost on those in the world. The things of God are foolishness to them the Bible says. But things like justice, mercy and humility are universal. They may be foreign to what they are used to seeing from people but that is exactly the point! They are supposed to look at the church and see something different!

    “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5: 14-16 (NKJV)

    So they can see how much anise we tithe? No - so they can see our good works and attribute them to the God we serve. That we are a good witness for Christ.

    Not only are we to act with a sense of justice but we are to love mercy. Not casually like mercy. Not occasionally act merciful. LOVE mercy. When Jesus is speaking warnings regarding the Pharisees it is because they abused people using their power. They routinely bilked the helpless out of their money and savings. In the temple they would price gouge foreigners and unbelievers when it was time for sacrifice. It was about them - not God. Today we see a similar trend amidst the purpose driven church theology. New pastors are actually taught how to get rid of people who disagree. Not disagree about doctrine but rather who simply disagree with the purpose driven model! Rick Warren mockingly calls people who resist "pillars" of the church because they "hold things up." Such unmerciful behavior is rampant throughout the new church growth models. Any question, no matter how doctrinally sound, is considered as sowing discord. The authority card is abused over and over again in ways that are simply not supported scripturally.

    Lastly, the remaining weighty matter for us to deal with is faith. The modern movements all profess faith but in their actions they clearly do not possess any. The Gospel is no longer considered sufficient or relevant. The belief of insufficiency is on display by the insistence on dumbing it down, watering it down, and sweetening it up. Warren himself is on record last year advising pastors to not preach the Gospel on Resurrection Sunday so visitors will have a reason to come back! The belief of irrelevance is on display by the constant compromise with the things of the world. A Star Wars Resurrection Sunday musical. Easter Egg hunts. Pseudo-Halloween celebrations. One mega church pastor defended the Easter Bunny, which is derived from a fourth century sex goddess, by saying he didn't want to be "that crazy church" that has "no relevance to the community" in which it sits. Well, mission accomplished. The modern church is so relevant you cannot tell the world apart from it. Pastors in skinny jeans and faux-hawk haircuts is not the answer beloved. We cannot strain out gnats and swallow camels.

    The Pharisees used to be overly worried about gnats in their wine because of the admonition against eating "creeping things." As such, they would go to great lengths to make sure they strained out their wine using a linen cloth. The point Jesus is making here is what difference does the straining of a gnat make after you have devoured a widows house for personal gain? What difference does relevance make when you have removed the power of the Gospel to save people? Sure you can manipulate them up for an altar call. You can make them parrot a three sentence "prayer" that has nothing to do with their sinful state and need for repentance. You can baptize goats by the hundreds. You can plug them into ministries and assimilate them to church culture. You can even count them as a positive statistic and pat yourself on the back. It matters not beloved. It is time for the church to deal with the camels they keep swallowing before being overly concerned with the gnats.

    Rev. Anthony

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