United Church of God

Weightier Matters

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A Congregation of the United Church of God

Weightier Matters

How much did you pay for gasoline this week? Probably not the same as you did last time you bought it, as it seems the price goes up one week, and down the next. Few things in life fluctuate more than the price of a gallon of gasoline. If you’re like most people, you probably take note of where gas is cheaper, and where it is higher. Yesterday I saw gas prices differ between stations by as much as 50 cents a gallon! Usually the difference isn’t that great, but it can still vary considerably from one station to the next.

Have you ever noticed how people will drive out of their way to find cheap gas? Because they know of a place where they can save a few cents a gallon, they will take the long way, to save money. But the average gas tank doesn’t hold enough to make the savings very significant, and the extra cost spent in driving the extra miles can negate any savings realized. People literally “spend a dollar to save a quarter”!

People have been doing that for centuries. Obviously we’re not discussing fossil fuels any more, as they haven’t been our main source of energy for more than a century or so. But twenty centuries ago, Jesus spoke to a group of people who were, in effect, doing this very thing. In Matthew 23:23, we read of a group of people who went to extremes to obey the letter of the law, and were very meticulous about staying within the lines of what the law dictated. But they left out the most important part. These people were the scribes and Pharisees, whom Christ called hypocrites. He said they were tithing, which they did with extreme exactitude, but they were lacking in the weightier matters…that is, the more important aspects of the law. Justice, mercy and faith went by the wayside as they counted out every tenth mint leaf or seed or grain, making sure all the while not to pay too little or too much. But the spiritual aspects of the law were totally neglected. Christ said they were straining out gnats, but swallowing camels. They were remaining obedient in minute things, but ignoring things that were far more important.

Their problem was that they were trying to look righteous to men. If the physical part of the law was disobeyed, it would be noticed. Reputations would suffer. But breaking the spiritual aspects of the law is not always as obvious. They didn’t care about that part. Christ called them whitewashed tombs. On the surface they were spotless and clean, but inside, totally corrupted with hypocrisy and lawlessness. They placed more emphasis on keeping the Sabbath in a strict and unbalanced way, such that they criticized the act of healing on that day, despite the fact that by performing a healing, Christ was showing compassion and mercy to someone in need. They were going out of their way to save their reputation before men, but at the expense of inner righteousness which is the more important part. Their own tradition became their law, and it became their god.

Are we like that? Do we ever go out of our way to follow God’s law, only to find that we’re neglecting the spiritual intent? For example, do we put so much emphasis on getting to Sabbath services, that we drive recklessly to make it on time, perhaps putting other people in danger? Better to get there late than to not get there at all, and maybe harming someone else in the process. Or do we try so hard to keep the Sabbath, and avoid all things not Sabbath-friendly, that we forget what we should be doing on that day? Do we concentrate on avoiding thoughts of a secular nature, that we don’t have the chance to pray or study God’s word? Worse yet, do we even get judgmental of the way someone else keeps the Sabbath?

Let’s be sure we’re keeping God’s laws in their full spiritual intent, and not to be seen by other people. Don’t go out of your way to keep one point of the law that it causes you to neglect the rest. That one point may be important, but don’t leave the rest undone! Concentrate on the weightier matters, and live according to the spiritual intent of God’s law.

Don McCoy
May 27, 2017