Matthew 23:23 “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.
Boy, Jesus was always coming down on the Pharisees. What a bummer to be one of those guys huh? In the latest installment of “I’m following God with my whole head rather than use even a little of my heart”, the Pharisees had taken tithing (giving 10% to God) to a whole new level. They were measuring out one tenth of their spices and offering it to the church. What dedication. What servants hearts they must have possessed to want to give a percentage of even the tiniest things they grew. Um, or not. Rather than showing the love of God, they were taking the letter of the law and applying it to the minutia of their lives.
The Lord was laying down some smack talk on these uppity dudes about the matters of the heart that they were completely ignoring. Maybe they were too busy counting mint leaves to be sure every tenth one was set aside for God. Perhaps they’d spent all their time harvesting cummin seeds to donate. Whatever the reason, their leaves or their seeds, they didn’t take time to do merciful deeds. Yes, I know, that sounded very Dr. Seuss-ish. Give me a break, I read to a three-year old many hours a day.
Seriously though. I’m so often with the Pharisees on this one. I’m a rule follower. Black and white. It is, or it isn’t. You give me a base line to follow and I’m right there tracking with you. I’m very (very) technical. Showing mercy however, is like signing up for an all day lecture on watching paint dry. Not really my cup of tea. Too bad for me, God thinks mercy is pretty darn important. Actually, when God’s being merciful with ME, I think it’s a pretty awesome thing too. But giving it to others is where I’m not so fond of it. Come to think of it, I might rather count out mint and dill leaves than purposefully develop my mercy muscles. It’s painful. It’s hard. I don’t like it.
I know it’s of value to God though. Ultimately, a life of grace and mercy for others is demonstrating Christ’s love. The tricky part is remembering that Jesus died for them too – not just me. Which is especially hard to keep in mind when you just want others to get what’s coming to them. How easy to forget that what’s coming to them, is the same thing you and I deserve. Death.
Yesterday, I took great pleasure in someone else’s misery. I felt joy in their pain. I have felt a tremendous sense of injustice regarding this person. Like they got off scott free after destroying lives. It isn’t fair. I don’t think it’s right. I struggle with the inequity of it often. As I was delighting myself with thoughts of this person’s hardship, I realized, “God loves her”. I tried to push the thought from my mind, but I keep coming back to it. Jesus died for HER. I don’t like it, it’s not easy for me, but I need to remember that as much as Christ loved me, He feels the same for her. And that, were it not for that saving, merciful love – I would be in the same boat as she is. The one sailing away from the love of God, right into the fires of Hell.
I can’t make myself feel better about wishing bad things on those Christ loves. No tithe of cummin is going to negate my lack of mercy and grace. My only option is to continue bringing this failure to the Lord. Continue seeking His mercy to fill my life so that I can pour it out towards others. It’s a daily choice. I doubt it will ever be easy for me to choose, but I know it’s what will lead me into a life full of peace and joy, rather than counting cummin seeds for my tithe.