Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)
Justice, Mercy, And Faith
The professor presents a large glass jar before his class. He fills the jar with large rocks until there is no more room for the rocks. He asks the class if the jar is full, and they reply that it is. He then pulls out a jar with gravel and begins pouring the gravel into the jar. After he puts in all the gravel he can, he asks the class if the jar is full. Again, they say the jar is full. Finally, the professor brings out a jar of fine sand and begins pouring the sand into the jar containing the large rocks and gravel. When the jar is full of fine sand, the class responds the class is full.
The lesson the professor impresses upon the students is there are things in life that are essential before other things begin to clutter up life. If the fine sand had been poured in first, there would have been no room for the rocks or gravel. Pouring in the gravel at the wrong time would have hindered the rocks from being included. The rocks represent the important things in life: family, friendship, and relationships. The gravel is those essential things that will help in life, like jobs, homes, possessions, etc. Putting the fine sand represents all the things of life that are good to have but not as necessary. The order of importance is what will make the difference.
Jesus used a similar illustration when He rebuked the religious leaders for spending so much time on the small matters of life while neglecting the weightier matters of the law. Under the law, there were tithing requirements. The Pharisees had become so strict in keeping with the law that they gathered the tenth sprig of every garden herb and presented it to the priest. Jesus did not condemn them for this but highlighted their hypocrisy in neglecting matters of the law with greater consequences. The need for justice, mercy, and faith were the large rocks in the jar of the professor: they must be done first! Treating their fellow man with justice was more important than a sprig of mint. When the Pharisees gave alms, they made a great noise of trumpets blaring while showing no mercy to the needy. Their faith was not towards God but their self-righteousness.
Many things in life are essential to the character of the Christian. Going to worship services, attending Bible classes, reading the Bible, and such things are vital ingredients to a healthy and prosperous spiritual life. When these matters begin to overshadow the relationship of justice, mercy, and truth toward others and God, the sacrifices become invalid. Someone may ask if a brother or sister is faithful. Unconsciously, the answer is that, yes, that brother is faithful; the reason that conclusion is given is that they attend all the church services. Faithfulness is not determined by sitting on a pew. The Jews were very particular about making sure the correct amount of mint, anise, and cummin, were measured correctly and presented in accordance with the law. At the same time, they treated their brethren with contempt, disregard, and prejudice. As Jesus would tell them, they strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel.
The weightier matters of the law must be placed in their proper order. Justice, mercy, and faith must come before all things and exercise in the life of the Christian with priority. Too many of God’s people live on mint, anise, and cummin and neglect what God wants out of their lives. They live unproductive, unloving, and fruitless lives. The Christian must seek the higher things in their duty toward God. Showing justice to the needy, having mercy on the downtrodden, and trusting in the will of God is where true worship comes. Be careful of the gnats, and don’t let the camels choke your life to no value.