Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 3: Gnats, Mercy, and Cumin

spices-1-1523661-639x950On Sunday we looked at the fourth woe of Jesus. And in the fourth woe Jesus says this,

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel.

And here Jesus is confronting the religious leaders of his day for not living like God and for not prioritizing or orientating their lives in the way of God. The way they are living isn’t bringing them closer to God, or God closer to the world.

The truth is that if our religious energies go into the “minor” things rather than the “major” things of following God we can become an obstacle to God. And that is actually what Jesus is arguing that they are missing the more major, weightier, and important commandments. Apparently Jesus thinks some laws and commands matter more than others, and he’s right of course.

Jesus pulls an allusion to Micah saying what does God require mercy, justice, and faith. He says essentially what good is tithing your herb garden when you forget about the major things? What good is following the minor rules if you don’t get the major ones right?

And this is a really convicting and challenging teaching because here Jesus wants to change the metric of our holiness. Holiness isn’t about just following the rules, but which ones you actually prioritize and put the most effort into. Following Jesus is about the greatest commandments, mercy, faith, and justice.

So we ended with this main point: Some things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things

The truth is we can be religious and still miss the point like the Pharisees. We need to have our lives orientated around the main things: faith, mercy, and justice like Jesus asks.

So we ended with a simple challenge. To sit and contemplate on this question:

Have I forgotten mercy, justice, or faithfulness?

Because that question matters. It matters to Jesus so it should matter to us.

So that’s what we did on Sunday, but it’s also worth doing right now, because whenever our lives major on the minors we are missing the point.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaSome things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things

Teaching Points:

  • Their way of living will not bring them closer to God, or God closer to the world
  • Jesus believes some commands matter more than others.
  • The things we often measure our holiness and righteousness against aren’t always the things God is measuring.
  • It is so easy to neglect the most important things while keeping other religious things going.

 

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? Why or why not? Is there something you could give up this year for Lent? Have you ever considered that you might be “spiritually blind”? Can you think of other examples of “spiritual blindness”? Why is being spiritually blind so very  dangerous? Are there any areas you feel you might be blind to?

Challenge for the Week: God reveal the areas of blindness in me.

Few Who Believe in Jesus Believe in His Revolutionary Ideas

A quote to chew on today:

Far too few who believe in the risen Christ actually believe in his revolutionary ideas. Brian Zahnd

That is a deep one.

We love the fact that Jesus saves us, we love the fact that Jesus loves us, but we are less comfortable with how he says we should live and love. We love that fact that Jesus loves us, when we were enemies, but we are reluctant to love our enemies. We believe in the risen Christ  but don’t believe in his revolutionary ideas of love, sacrifice, and grace.

This quote makes me uncomfortable, and it should. 

Because it’s so easy to like Jesus, and believe in him. The hard part is following him, is living like him, is being willing to practice what he practiced.

So while this quote makes me uncomfortable, it’s a good thing. Because sometimes when you get uncomfortable you get out of your comfort zone. And I think that’s what I need. I need to be challenged not just to believe in Jesus, but live like Jesus. To not just believe in a risen Christ, but to believe in his revolutionary ideas and follow them.

So while this quote makes me a little uncomfortable, it’s a good thing.

What do you think of it?

The Anger of God and Our Indifference to Injustice

275160_8265Often in the prophets we read of God’s anger and his wrath. I know a lot of people for whom the language of God’s wrath makes them uncomfortable. I know it often makes me uncomfortable sometimes. Sometimes we seek to explain it away, put it into context, or find more gracious interpretations for it. I think that’s all fine and good as far as it goes, but sometimes I think we need to sit with the language and read and understand the depth that God cares about some things.

God’s anger in the prophets is because of the injustice around Israel. God is standing up for the hurting, oppressed, and those seeking hope. I actually think our uncomfort with some of God’s strong language reveals our more passive feelings to injustice around us.

While studying the prophets recently I read this from Abraham Joshua Heschel. I found it brilliant, true…and very convicting. He says this:

The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor; to God, it is a disaster. Our reaction is disapproval; God’s reaction is something no language can convey. It is a sign of cruelty that God’s anger is aroused when the rights of the poor are violated, when widows and orphans are oppressed? (The Prophets, 65)

His point for us is that we do not take the exploitation of the poor nearly as seriously as God does. Our uncomfort with the strong language of God in the prophets may be an indication of our passive acceptance of the exploitation around us.

So for me what this means is this. Have I become indifferent to the suffering I see around me, and around the world? Am I active in seeking to stand up for those who are hurting, and having the same passion God does about injustice?

I think these are important questions to think about, and even more important questions to act on.