Summary: Fourth in the series regarding Jesus’ words about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and religious leaders.

Jesus Hates Hypocrisy

Even More Than You Do!

Part 4 – Majoring on the Minors

Matthew 23:23-24

January 18, 2009



How many in here today are detail-oriented? It’s okay, nothing to be ashamed of…

I am generally not detail-oriented.

I’ve got my issues with details, and I’ll tell you about one of those later in the message, but you’ll find very few people who think I’m detail oriented.

Detail-oriented people are good for me, because, as I mentioned, I’m not detail oriented, and if I’m not careful, things slip through the cracks.

Detail-oriented people have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

As I just mentioned, detail oriented people have a good purpose.

But just like I can let things fall through the cracks if I’m not careful, detail-oriented people, if they’re not careful, can get so caught up in the minutia that they don’t see the bigger picture, and can actually halt the progress necessary for things to happen in any organization, whether it’s a family, a church, or a multi-national corporation.

So is there a balance? You’d better believe there is, and we find it in the passage of Scripture we’re looking at today.

God: Matthew 23:23-24 (p. 700) –

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

The religious leaders had become experts at micromanaging life. Their own and everybody else’s.

These guys had rules upon rules and rules about the rules.

And they were the experts at being detailed.

These guys would scare an IRS auditor with their detail. They’d end up showing the auditor how to do his job even better.

One of the big deals in the Law of Moses was that certain animals were considered unclean, and were not to be eaten.

This included certain insects.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a fan of eating insects of any kind, whether they’d be considered clean or unclean, you know what I mean?

Last summer, my daughter, Olivia, and I were on our father/daughter trip to Minnesota, to catch the Minnesota Zoo and a couple Twins games.

We stopped at a little town to have a picnic lunch. I think the town we stopped at was called Olivia, wasn’t it, Baby Girl?

Anyway, here we are, minding my own business, eating our bologna sandwiches when I look down at my sandwich and see half a wasp right where I had just taken a bite.

Man, you can bet that I was spitting and sputtering like maybe never before.

Olivia thought it was funny – and she still does… (And I don’t know if wasps are clean or not)

Anyway, the point here is that certain animals and insects were unclean, including gnats.

And so, because they wanted to make sure they didn’t accidentally ingest a gnat, would strain their drinks through a cloth.

That just kinda makes sense, especially if you’re not a big fan of eating bugs.

These guys were meticulous about the details of ceremonial cleanliness (symbolized by the gnat), but they had lost their perspective on the matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (symbolized by the camel).

And Jesus uses that as an object lesson about what really matters in the kingdom of God.

As the Pharisees took great care of the smallest details in order to remain pure, they had become unclean in the most important areas. They were ceremonially clean on the outside, but they had corrupt hearts. (LACNTC)

They had lost sight that the real purpose of their responsibilities to God is to bring about righteousness in this world, not simply perpetuate religious activity and burdens.

This may be the clearest example of the kind of hypocrisy that demonstrates inconsistency in their personal behavior. They display partial obedience alongside of partial obedience.

Now before we get into what I want us to focus on for the rest of the message, I want to point out something from this passage.

Look back to the phrase in verse 23 where He says –

You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

In other words, Go ahead and tithe your spices and such, since the laws of the Pharisees say you should, but don’t neglect these other things. It’s not ‘either/or;’ do them both.

He’s saying, “While you’re doing these things, make sure you don’t lose the right perspective on the kingdom.”

“Do what you’re supposed to do in the small areas. But don’t sacrifice the big picture to focus on the small stuff.”

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