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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Judging the Judges

Matthew 23:23-24 “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. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

We grew up in a denomination that placed a lot of emphasis on acting a certain way, talking a certain way, and carrying out certain activities. As we have talked about in a previous post, there was a sense of those who were “in” and those who were “out.” If we did certain things, we were told that we may not truly be saved, that God was angry at us.

In the above passage, Jesus is calling out the religious leaders of his day for going through all the motions of their religion while neglecting its most important features. This ties in well with what we have been learning as a family from Micah 6:8, which in its context tells us that God does not want us to simply conform to a particular set of religious rules, but that God’s desire is for us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Jesus tells us that even if we live perfectly according to the expectations that are placed on us by our churches, but we are not acting justly or showing mercy, we have completely missed the point. Jesus even refers to these things as the “weightier matters” of the law! The Pharisees were guilty of living out the letter of the law, but ignoring its heart. Micah tells us in chapter 6 that God has no desire for our sacrifices or our songs and hymns. What God has wanted from the beginning is that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

This is a point that is missed by much of the church over its history. The church is known for its rules and expectations. People from outside the church know Christians as the people who oppose homosexuality, who don’t swear, who are prudish about matters of sex. Christians are known as the ones who are constantly in judgment of the way that people live.

I can’t help but wonder what Christians’ image in the world would be if we paid attention to what Jesus calls the “weightier matters” of justice and mercy. What if we were characterized by the love and compassion that we showed to those in need? What if we were known for advocating for criminal justice reform and ending the prison industrial complex that commits egregious injustices every day? What if we took Micah’s words seriously and were understood to be a people that did justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with God?

I ask these questions not to try to make anyone feel guilty. I am guilty myself of thinking I’m better than other people because I do or don’t do certain things. What I want is to look inside myself and find places where I can make room for God to do his Kingdom building work in my heart so that I can show justice and mercy to others. Would you pray with us that we as a church will rise to this challenge; that we will move to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God? Will you pray with us that when Jesus looks at us he will not call us hypocrites, but that we will live out the words of Micah and of Jesus? If everyone did these things, I believe the whole world would come to Jesus.

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