Monday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 23:13-39

The Weightier Matters of the Law

We noted yesterday that the Lord “took the Pharisees to school” in academic one-upmanship; that is, if the scribes and Pharisees thought that debating fine points of the law really mattered, then the original lawgiver would be happy to accommodate them.  But showing up the Pharisees in theological debate really wasn’t Jesus’ purpose.  His purpose was to show them, well, themselves; specifically, their hypocrisy in their intense concern for appearance over substance and the resulting neglect of the “weightier matters of the law.”  In response, Jesus issues several “woes” upon them.

Building on their love of outward show which we read about yesterday (long robes, best seats in the synagogues), Jesus continues his list of grievances that highlight this concern of theirs for appearances.  First, you “shut the kingdom of God in people’s faces.”  No doubt, this shocked them: “How do we do that?”  By weighing people down with trivial extra-biblical laws that make religion a burden.  You even travel the world over to make one convert, only to make him like yourselves and in your own image rather than God’s. Second, you mistake appearance for substance in oaths, mixing the sacred with the profane.  The temple sanctifies the gold, the altar the gift, and God heaven, not the other way around!  Third, you tithe on everything you own (that’s a good thing), but forget to “tithe” on justice, mercy, and compassion.  Fourth, your concern for appearances is fittingly illustrated in your washing the outside of the cup and not the inside, such that you, yourselves, are like tombs which on the outside are beautifully decorated but which no one would ever dare to look within.  And then to top it all off, you decorate the tombs of the prophets your fathers murdered, thereby testifying that you are their sons!

We might be tempted to say, “Gee Jesus.  Being a little rough on the boys, aren’t you?”  Not at all.  If this diatribe shows us anything, it shows us God’s concern for substance over appearance, and how confusing the two leads to hypocrisy and ultimately lawlessness.  Indeed, it’s Jesus’ indictment that the scribes and Pharisees were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” that probably offended them the most.  “Lawlessness?  You gotta be kidding!  We, Pharisees are the quintessential keepers of the law.”  No, you’re not.  Indeed, Jesus would have us understand that when we “strain out gnats” (major on appearances), we “swallow camels” (minor on substance) and wind up breaking the very laws we strive to meticulously maintain – by neglecting justice.  And the judgment for doing so is severe (23:37-39).

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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