I was reading from Matthew, today, and the words of Jesus to the scribes and Pharisee’s really spoke to me. Two of His “Woes” in particular stuck out:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23, ESV)
Jesus is calling them hypocrites because they keep the law outwardly, but neglect the inward. When they tithe the spices, they are doing works in the church that is clearly seen by other people. However, their attitudes, and the way they feel about others are neglected. In other words, they don’t view how they treat other people through the lens of their relationship with God.
Whenever I read this verse, it reminds me of when I was in junior high, I attended a youth camp that had a preacher named John Collins. I don’t remember a lot of the things he said, but there was one thing I do remember, almost verbatim, even after 30 years. He said, “The highest expression of your spirituality is not your relationship with God. The highest expression of your spirituality is your relationship with other people.” In other words, how we act toward, think about, and treat other people shows the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Christ specifically pointed out Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness as ways we act as Christians.
Justice – This is concerning right and wrong. I believe that He was referring to having good judgment when it came to the way we act, and the way we treat other people. I also believe that this is referring to our sense of right and wrong. Everything we do must be evaluated with Right vs. Wrong.
Mercy – This refers to showing kindness and good will towards the less fortunate, and a desire to help them. It also refers to the compassion shown to an offender. When it is justified to “punish” someone for the sins they commit against you, in your mercy, you forgive them.
Faithfulness – The definition of this word in the Greek is, “conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.” In light of what I’m saying, if there is a true faith in God, accompanied with a holy fervor in how you live out that faith, then it affects how you think about others, which will then show up in how you treat others.
This verse really spoke to me because I feel like I can read it as “Woe to you, Todd, you hypocrite!” I don’t intend to act like this, but when I take a close look at my life, this verse is about me. I don’t make a big show of giving my tithes and offering, but people definitely see the best, most “religious” Todd possible when I am at church, or church activities. Then, I am being critical of everything and everyone. I also tend to forget about Mercy. In my mind, I hold everyone responsible for everything they say and do. Sometimes, I even show my anger. But the Lord wants us to show mercy, like He has shown us mercy.
The next passage that spoke to me was right along the same lines:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28, ESV).
This can be written as people keeping up appearances, yet inside, they are a totally different person. I view this as if someone came over to my house, and the living room was immaculate, but behind the closed doors of the bedroom there is a real mess. This scripture speaks of people “putting on airs” for the sake of everyone, yet what is going on internally shows a completely different story.
I’m not saying that everyone has to be completely transparent to everyone on this planet. I’m not saying that you have to be a completely open book. However, I do believe that everyone should adopt a WYSIWYG philosophy (What You See Is What You Get). You don’t have to show everyone everything, but what they do see should be the real you.