In Matthew 23, Jesus had some unusually harsh words for a group of very religious people who had gotten a lot of things “wrong.” He acknowledged that they had gone to the trouble to “tithe mint and dill and cumin,” but He also accused them of having “neglected the weightier matters of the law” (vs. 23).
In other words, He seems to be saying to them, “You have taken the time to make sure that you give one-tenth of your spice rack; but in the process, you’ve lost the entire POINT of your faith!” Strangely enough, this was the same group of people who seemed most concerned about “not doing anything wrong.” In one of His funnier (and more biting) moments, Jesus then calls them “blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (vs. 24).
Do you struggle with this like I do?
As Christians, we often behave like these scribes and Pharisees, becoming very “picky” about not being “wrong” in certain areas of life, don’t we? We could sometimes be described as spiritually “myopic,” focusing on the “spice rack” of our religious observances (which are typically based more in tradition instead of Scripture) and neglecting some of the “weightier matters” of our faith.
God’s people have a history – as seen throughout the Bible - of being so concerned about not “doing anything wrong” on a small scale, that we put ourselves in a very “wrong” position on a much larger scale.
As a modern example, think about the attitude of a “Christian” man/woman who might get up in arms, agitated, and perhaps even publicly irate about something “small” that he/she perceives to be “wrong” (like song choices, the behavior of teens during worship, Sunday night format, worship attire, etc.), but seems to have no problem at all being hateful towards the waiter during Sunday lunch. If Jesus were the waiter in that situation, He might say, “Would you care for more camel?”
On the other side of this coin, we have someone like Apollos in Acts 18. Apollos was “an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.” He was “fervent in spirit” and “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,” according to Acts 18:24-25. In other words, he had all of the “big stuff” right. He was clearly not a Pharisee.
There was only one “small” problem: “he knew only the baptism of John” (vs. 25). In today’s religious climate, I’m sure that someone would say to Apollos, “Oh, this doesn’t matter, Apollos! You just keep preaching Jesus and everything will be fine! God knows your heart!”
A Christian couple named Priscilla and Aquila thankfully did not take this approach, and they “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (vs. 26). The fact of the matter is that Apollos, regardless of how many “big things” he was right about, was wrong about this one thing. And it evidently mattered.
But don’t miss the point: do you see the stark contrast between these two examples?
- The Pharisees were wrong about the “big stuff” and wouldn’t accept correction.
- Apollos was wrong about some of the “small stuff” and did accept correction.
What about you?
Can you accept correction? Do you accept correction? Or have you become so comfortable (perhaps even self righteous) regarding the things in life that you think you’re “right” about that you can’t see what you may have gotten “wrong?”
The bottom line is, whether it is something “big” or something “small,” all of us are wrong about something! The question is, how are we going to take it when it is brought to our attention? Are we going to be like the Pharisees, lashing out in anger at our “accuser”? Or are we going to be like Apollos, humbly accepting correction and becoming better as a result?
Jesus’ advice to these scribes and Pharisees is the same advice that I would like to leave you with: “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” In other words, although there may be “big” things and “small” things when it comes to our faith, there are no “unimportant” things. May God help us all to be humble enough to admit our particular “brand” of being wrong!