Weighty Matters

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23)

This particular "woe" among the eight in Matthew 23 is often only partially proclaimed. Usually, sermons are delivered about the "judgment, mercy, and faith" that are indeed the "weightier matters of the law"--but Christ’s somewhat offhand remark on the responsibility to tithe is either ignored or downplayed.

Surely the legalistic and public display of "obedience" to the law is condemned by Jesus. He rebuked these same men for their desire to show their spirituality. "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men" (Matthew 6:2). But Jesus also said in our text that they "ought . . . to have done" the tithing of their wealth.

The condemnation is that this kind of hypocrite seeks only his name in a bulletin, or a plaque on a wall, or a brick in a walkway, or a wing in a hospital or museum, and is indifferent to the quiet, background work of ministry that doles out judgment, mercy, and faith.

Jesus measures "weightier matters" this way: "I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me" (Matthew 25:35-36). "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).

If we wish to honor and please our Lord, He expects us to do both: faithful tithes and offerings, and judgment, mercy, and faith. HMM III

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