As children of God, all of us are capable of either drawing people to Christ or pushing them further away. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the people all perceived the religious leaders of the day as being God’s true servants. They were the ones who had the responsibility of teaching and ministering the word of God to His people. Yet, instead of drawing them to God, they were driving them far away from Him. That is why Jesus told them this in one of his many confrontations with them: “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)
For us, it is never appropriate to call anybody a hypocrite for two main reasons. First, we can’t do it because there is a little bit of hypocrisy in all of us, so that disqualifies us. Secondly, we don’t know the heart of the person because, unlike Christ, we can’t see what is on the inside. Why were these men hypocrites? Because in many matters of the law, the ones which could be seen outwardly, they were being faithful. They were tithing everything they had, even down to the spices in their possession. Yet, when it came to the matters of the heart, these they were neglecting, in particular, justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
If we get careless, we can be like them. In the eyes of many, we may be doing and saying the right things but still be forgetting the matters of the heart. Justice and righteousness go hand in hand. Do we treat everybody the same, show no bias, and have no favorites? Are we merciful with others when they need mercy, forgiveness, and understanding? Have we forgotten the mercy we have received and keep receiving constantly from God or do we just come down hard on those who fail Him? Do we exhort them but forget to comfort them once we have wounded them? When you spanked your children, did you not hug and console them afterward? I bet you did. And how about faithfulness? Are we being as faithful to God as we should be? If we are not, we have no business being impatient with those we deem less faithful than us. Every time I hear a pastor or teacher dishing out only the “don’t do this” and forgetting the “do this instead”, I recognize immediately that something is missing. I lift up a prayer for him as well as for myself that I never find myself so engrossed with the aim of telling it like it is, that I forget the other side of the issue, namely justice, mercy, and faithfulness. This is a seemingly impossible task, but a prayer we would all be wise to lift up to God is this: “Lord, please help me be more like Jesus every day.”
God’s word for today: (John 13:35) “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”