Here are two more minutes from “Authentic” (part 5) and Matthew 23:23-36.
“. . .you have neglected the weightier matters of the Law. . .” (23:23). The Pharisees had very developed convictions about minor doctrinal issues, while avoiding obedience of the obvious applications of the Law. They had developed a conviction about what to “tithe” but were not acting with justice or mercy toward others or with faithfulness in their relationship with God. This meant they had “weighted” the Law wrong. When asked to summarize the Law, Jesus said that the great commandment was to LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, and to Love your neighbor as yourself. These issues of love and relationship with God and others are the weightier things in our spiritual lives. To say it another way, if we have a “quiet time,” ace the theology exam, don’t get drunk on weekends, and give 10% of our salary to our church, but we are not faithfully depending upon God (walking in faithfulness) or showing love, justice, and mercy to others, our spiritual life needs development. A great example of this is how the Pharisees (in John 18:28) won’t enter Pilate’s office (for fear of becoming ceremonially unclean for a holiday) but they have NO ISSUE with turning over an innocent man for crucifixion (Jesus). This demonstrated that their spiritual scales were out of balance. Jesus does not condemn their convictions on tithing (or our practice of “quiet times,” theological knowledge, etc.), but reminds them (and us) that if our spiritual life does not lead to a deeper love of God and others, it is lacking and out of balance.
“. . . you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous . . .” (23:29). Religion builds monuments. However, monument building is not necessarily a sign of spiritual vitality in the present, and often devolves into lucky charms over time. The first century is no different. The Pharisees made monuments to past prophets, but their behavior showed that though they tried to honor the prophets, they would not recognize a prophet if one walked right in front of them . . . as was graphically demonstrated when Jesus appears and they want to kill Him, not worship Him! Churches today run similar risks of retreating to monument building, instead of running forward on mission. Of this section, John Stott eloquently made the modern parallel for church leaders, saying – “This (the Temple) was the jewel in the crown of Judaism, but it had become a monument. It encouraged the ‘museum-keeper’ attitude that is so common among many ministers today. But Jesus did not leave His disciples to be keepers of aquaria, but fishers of men and women. The trouble is that so many churches are rafts to which people cling for safety in the rough seas of life, not trawlers to catch people for Christ. Such churches are into maintenance, not mission.” These are powerful words by Stott! We are not “keepers of aquaria, but fishers of men and women.” We get to be “trawlers to catch people for Christ.” Not just doing “maintenance” but being on “mission.” Authentic faith weights for others, and takes the Gospel to them . . . inviting them to welcome the Lord and be washed on the inside.
One last thing . . . I showed a slide this morning of Zachariah’s tomb just outside the city walls in Jerusalem. My friend Mark Burget and I regularly lead tours of Israel, and our next tour will be March 15-25, 2021. We will pair with a good friend of ours (a native Israeli tour guide) to provide insight into the land of the bible, devotionals to how it applies to our lives, and see the history that verifies the claims of our faith. We would love to have you join us (space is limited though!) This is a first-class, all-inclusive tour. If you want to go (regardless of your where you currently go to church), please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Additionally, you can see a brochure for the trip by clicking here.