Jesus and the prophets continually rebuked God’s followers for fixating on religious observation but neglecting “the more important aspects of the law”.
Matthew 23:23 [NLT] “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.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’
Observation and reflection questions
Regarding Matthew 23:23
- In your own words summarise Jesus’ message to the Pharisees of his day.
- Why would Jesus call these devout religious leaders “hypocrites” in the specific context of the verse?
- What do you think Jesus meant by these “more important aspects of the law”?
Reflection and Application
Consider the following three phrases which may describe what “living a life that pleases God” looks like?
- Not sinning morally, reading the Bible and praying daily.
- Participating in church worship activities and inviting others to church.
- Living a life of faith and power through the Holy Spirit.
- Caring for the weak, the poor and marginalized in society.
- Which of these statements would best describe contemporary Western Christianity’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
- Which of these statements best describe Jesus and the prophet’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
- How does your attitudes and activities line up with Jesus’ “more important aspects of the law”?
- What can you do this week to do “justice and mercy”? For whom will you do it?
Pray for God’s compassion to well in your heart, that you may be “moved with compassion” to acts of mercy and justice, as Christ was moved.