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.
The aim if this devotional study is to reflect on the need for a renewing of our thoughts and habits as part of God’s healing in our lives.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Context: In Romans 1-11 Paul beautifully articulates the Gospel to the Roman churches which he has not yet visited. Then in chapter 12 he begins with “…therefore, by the mercies of God” and for the next 4 chapters he explains the consequence of the Gospel – how it affects the personal, family, public and church life of the believer.
- How does verse 1 and 2 fit together?
- Rephrase this verse in your own words.
- Paul gives three keys to knowing God’s will
- What are the three keys he gives?
- What is meant by “the will of God” here?
- The Phillips translation of verse 2a reads “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”
- What is meant with “the world” in this context?
- How can “the world” squeeze you into “its own mold”? What is “its own mold”?
- What is wrong with being “conformed to this world”? Why does Paul say one should change your worldview/ outlook on life?
- What is Paul’s advice to “not conform”?
- How does one “transform” yourself by “renewing your mind”?
Personal reflection and application
- Prayerfully reflect on your own life and thought patterns regarding the following areas and identify what thought patterns should be renewed/ adapted to reflect and fulfill God’s will. Try to be specific.
- Your view of God
- Your view of yourself
- Your view of money, possessions and/or time
- Your relationships with believers
- Your relationships with unbelievers
- Share this list with a mature Christian friend.
- Choose the one most pressing area noted above that needs transformation.
- Find a Scripture that reflects the change required, and write it on a card today.
- Commit to reading and reflecting on that truth every hour today for 2-3 minutes. (as you prayerfully continue in this discipline for some time, there will be a change in your thinking)
- Ask the Lord for grace to transform your thoughts.