Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Heart Matters

Matthew 23:23 "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.

23 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ ἄνηθον καὶ τὸ κύμινον καὶ ἀφήκατε τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου, τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὸ ἔλεος καὶ τὴν πίστιν· ταῦτα [δὲ] ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ ἀφιέναι.

Jesus is on a roll in this passage.  He has been proclaiming a variety of woes on the scribes and Pharisees.  This probably goes without saying, but the scribes and Pharisees were the serious religious players of the day.  Imagine someone proclaiming a woe on the Pope.  Or, in Protestant circles, imagine someone proclaiming a woe on Billy Graham.  This was simply unthinkable to the people who heard this.

Why did Jesus give them such harsh words?  He told them that they ἀφήκατε τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου (of course, the verb is 2nd person plural, but you should get the idea).  Translating τὰ βαρύτερα as "weightier matters" is a bit of an interpretive decision, but it is necessary because Greek doesn't have a comparative sense like English does.  Very literally it would be something like, "you neglect the weighty things of the law."  But given the context in how Jesus lists what those matters are, I think that the comparative sense is certainly a valid translation.

When I read these woes my first instinct is to think about who else they apply to someone else.  But as I think more deeply I wonder how they apply to me.  Where am I obeying the superficial things, but neglecting the weightier matters?  Yes, I read my Bible daily, pray daily, memorize Scripture, tithe, etc.  The Pharisees did all that.  But does God have my heart?

I think He does, but this passage still gives me pause.  Is there more I could give Him?  I think so.  How about you?

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