Matt 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
As I read this passage of Scripture, the words: ‘Weightier Matters’ jumped off the page at me, making me think carefully about the weightier matters of life. So, I looked up this verse in several other versions.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you give a tenth of your mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected and omitted the weightier (more important) matters of the Law—right and justice and mercy and fidelity. These you ought [particularly] to have done, without neglecting the others.
The Message (MSG)
23-24 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?
Justice, Mercy and Faith!
What a topic! In this land of the free and home of the brave, where we strive for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
If we can’t get it right in the church house, there is no hope for the White House!
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Let’s look at Websters simple definition of ‘Justice’
Simple Definition of justice
: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
: a judge in a court of law
Justice —used as a title for a judge (such as a judge of the U.S. Supreme
Full Definition of justice
1a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishmentsb : judgec : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
2a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fairb (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousnessc : the quality of conforming to law
3: conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness
I am not an attorney, legislator, nor judge, yet, as a man of God, determined to walk in holiness and integrity, I am required to look at justice, mercy, and faith.
We see lady justice with scales in one hand and a sword in the other.
How well I knew it all after finishing Bible school, full of the Word of God, determined to make a difference in our generation, a man on fire for Jesus, filled with spiritual power, loving my enemies, walking by faith, knowing that the Word of God held every answer to humanities needs, for is it not written:
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
I still believe that, that Jesus is the answer, and that through His promises, we can overcome any difficulty this world throws at us, for
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Jo 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
That if we walk in love, and stand bold in faith, we will see victory in this life, in every arena!
Then, I realized that not everyone sees it that way. Some people, are not ever going to see it, and receive the love of God, or decide to walk in faith.
God gave people free will, and it has amazed me over the years, how strongly people will hold on to their will over the will of God!
The United States has three branches of government, while the kingdom of God only has two:
The political government of the country, and the authority of God invested in His church.
Where these two meet, there are some interesting dynamics!
Let’s give a couple examples:
As a pastor, I have performed marriages, and perform marriage counselling for church members. Yet, what about the divorcee? What does a child custody agreement need to look like?
Or how about our outreach to folks struggling with an addiction? People broken, battered and abused by their helplessness to stop the insatiable cravings for their drug of choice?
Let me tell a story:
Several years ago, a community that I pastored in had a drug problem. It was a government housing project, and one night in a drug raid, they arrested 70 people ! Shut down 7 crack houses in a day! Glory to God right?
Yet, God directed me to open an alcohol drug program for those hopelessly addicted, and suddenly our life became interesting!
I promised to love and walk with the 22 addicts that joined my program, through whatever they got themselves into, on one condition: It was a 26 lesson course, and they had to be willing to take the next lesson.
This meant that I had to mediate unpaid drug debts, go to hospitals to visit sick or overdosed folks, attend family court with those who had children, and regularly go to the local jails and prisons to visit folks.
Some of these court sessions were brutal, yet enlightening, sometimes comical. Listen to this story I read:
Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once informed a man who had appeared before him in a lower court and had escaped conviction on a technicality, “I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.” Surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, the thief fled out the back door, clambered over a nine-foot wall, dropped down the other side, and found himself in the city prison.
Oops: The Book of Blunders, 1980
As a pastor, I always stood in love, with the person in my care, but as a man of God, I could never lie, nor agree with sinful choices they had made.
Sometimes the courts had mercy, other times folks went to jail, but here I stood, in love, mercy, and faith believing the best for the addict, while the courts read the muck and mire they had been involved in.
Brokeness and tears were my portion during that season, crying out to God for mercy, and deliverance for these suffering souls, and by His grace, 21 of the 22 folks who went through the program, remain alcohol and drug free 10 years later.
This whole season was not a formula, but a living vital relationship, with Holy Spirit, seeking Him for wisdom as to how to help people, and for the judges to know what to do also.
Love with skin on.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth
How easy it would have been to become cold, clinical, detached, and to say to those broken people: well, you did the crime, now do the time!
This appears to be the position of these religious leaders in Jesus day. They knew the letter of the law, but had not experienced God personally, so that their example had become cold, sterile, lifeless, devoid of love and power. How easy it is for us in care-giving positions to become this way!
Doctors, nurses, counselors, health care, senior care, we must break before Him, often daily, or quietly die inside…
If you have died inside, here’s good news:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heartout of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Pray for tears, that He again break your heart with the things that are breaking His.
Thank God for the eternal standard of the Word of God, and His holiness that we all seek to emulate! Holiness is simply another word for LOVE…
Yet, without love, we are clanging gongs, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 1 Cor 13:1
Freedom, Liberty and Justice for all:
Jesus said, knowing Him, and Him alone will produce true freedom: Joh 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Then there is a walk of faith, and intimacy with God, where the Holy Spirit is given preeminance, that will produce liberty: 2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Yet, mercy is what we all need, forgiveness at the feet of a holy God, Ro 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. Jas 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
I read this story about Napoleon that touched me:
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
“But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.”
“But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied.
“Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”
“Well, then,” the emperor said, “I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son.
Luis Palau, Experiencing God’s Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.
‘Father, we recognize that people make wrong choices. That there are sure consequences to those choices. Father, for those of us in leadership, empower us to do what we must, to restrain evil in our generation, always operating in your love for people. Have mercy on us today, and give us courage, wisdom, and strength to continue to care, love, and pursue you and your holiness, and purity of heart before you, as we continue to trust and obey you, that the strong muscles of our faith, break every chain that would attempt to hold us back from the destiny you have created us to walk out, in your name I pray, Lord Jesus, Amen’