Time Alone With God daily devotionals

Time Alone with God daily devotionals

Written by Phil Stout, JAXNAZ church lead pastor, Jackson, MI
Tuesday, September 6

Read: Matthew 23:23-24

New International Version (NIV)

23 “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. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

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Consider: Matthew 23 contains Jesus’ “Seven Woes” against the Pharisees. (See yesterday’s meditation for why Jesus was continually at odds with them.) I’m sure the Pharisees were not amused, but the others who were listening were laughing out loud at Jesus’ image of someone straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Some of the Pharisees actually did strain gnats out of their food. They had dietary laws about eating meat that still had blood in it. You can’t bleed a gnat, so you have to make sure you don’t swallow one. I know. You can’t make this stuff up. Jesus lampooned their concept of religion and said they had entirely missed the point of God’s will. They might as well swallow a camel—blood and all!

Jesus wasn’t saying that keeping the Law was bad. In fact, when he talked about their tithing he said that they should have done that. But, in their obsession with measuring an exact 10% to prove their obedience to God, they lost the intent of God’s Law.

“You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (23:23)

Working for justice for the poor and vulnerable. Giving mercy as God has been merciful to us. Being faithful to the work of Jesus and learning how to love like Christ. This is what Paul would later call “the righteous requirement of the law” (Romans 8:4).

When we get free from the legalism that is so often embedded in our past, we find the freedom to love. We don’t have to judge others. We don’t have to tell people who is righteous and who is not. We simply get to respond to the invitation to love like Christ loves.

Pray: “Lord, sometimes I try so hard to be right that I lose the freedom of my relationship with you. It’s easy to concentrate on the wrong things. Help me to learn more—this very day—about loving like you love. Give me encounters and opportunities to be the face of Christ to others today. What a thrill it is to be invited by you to be your agent of grace.”

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