Today's devotion from Matthew 23. It's safe to say that Jesus was less than impressed with the Pharisees. Their legalism was stifling the people who wanted to know God, but were instead snared with rules. One of the sayings that Jesus is well known for comes from this text. You've probably heard people talk about straining at gnats. Well, this is where it comes from.
The meaning behind it is usually pretty obvious. Jesus was calling the Pharisees out for hypocrisy and legalism. They overemphasized minor details, but neglected to give proper attention to the big things. For some reason, when we use this saying in our modern culture we focus on the small stuff. We use this to chide others for nitpicking.
But Jesus didn't stop there. He didn't just call them out for tithing these small herbs of mint, dill, and cumin. Instead, He took the time to name the big things for them as well. They gave a tenth of the smallest possession, but neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness. As we've seen many times, Jesus desired people to keep the heart of the Law, not just the letter.
Keeping the appearance of faithful righteousness is never enough. In fact, that is often the opposite because of the harm it brings on those around us. Jesus' allusion to the white washed tomb is apt. It may be respectable and pretty, but it is still filled with death and decay.
I think that sometimes we as believers get wrapped up in the little things, but we lack mercy toward others. We get concerned with appearances, but fail to care for justice in the lives of those around us. If you'll notice, these big things are impossible to be issues when we're alone. If we are to be merciful, then we have to be around others. Further, we have to be around others who have done something hurtful or wrong so that they require mercy and we are required to give it.
It's great that you've taken the time to read these verses today. Now, will you be patient with those who get on your nerves?