Gnats & Camels (Holy Week Reflection 2)

Tuesday: Gnats and Camelsgnat-camel

Matthew 23: 23-24 (NLT Version)
23“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! 25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples went back to Jerusalem.

As they passed the Temple, the religious leaders challenged Jesus about his authority. They were trying to catch him out so that they had an opportunity to arrest him.

Jesus, on this occasion, was far from quiet. He told the leaders in no uncertain terms that they were so blind that they could not see what God wanted them to see.

They were so meticulous in their observance of the ‘letter of the law,’ that it seems that they ensured that they had given 1/10th of all their herbs.  I imagine them out in their gardens with a wooden ruler! Jesus is not saying that their observance of the law was wrong, but rather that their focus was wrong.

These people had been so obsessive about getting the rules right; about ‘straining the water to avoid swallowing a gnat’ that they had effectively swallowed a camel! They had failed to do the most important thing…

‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.’ (Micah 6:8)

The rules had been intended to help them to bless others, but the people had become so caught up with dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that they were failing to be a blessing to anyone! Such an attitude was unacceptable to Christ then and it still is today.

Spend a few minutes thinking quietly. Afterwards, if you are in a group, share any relevant thoughts.

Do we sometimes try so hard to get things right, obsessing about the detail, that we can miss who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do?

What does it say about our ‘heart attitude’ if we only give Jesus 1/10th – the leftovers of our life? Ask God to show you how you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude, of love and of a generous spirit.

If we are walking humbly with the Lord, we will find that we increasingly reflect his character to the world, a character of justice and mercy. In what practical ways are we showing his character of justice and mercy in this community, in our work places, in this nation and in the world?

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces,
We are loved, to love where love is not.
We are changed, to be the change you promised,
We are freed, to be your hands, O God
(© 2012 Andy Flannagan)

Spend some time praying about the things that we have been thinking about today.

May the blessing of God’s light be on you; light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm themselves at it.
And may light shine out of your eyes, like candles set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in – out of the storm.
(Adapted from a Scottish Blessing)


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