This is the section of the gospels that haunts me everyday. I know it sounds like an over-exaggeration, but it's true. The essence of the faith is something all devoted followers desire, and the fear of walking through this life and getting it all wrong…well, it is the core of my being.
Jesus confronts the religious leaders again in Matthew 23 when He says, "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. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel"
I consider myself a teacher. A teacher of the gospel. Probably much like the Pharisees thought back in Jesus' day. They were people that surely thought they were doing the right thing, but somehow were mis-guided, mis-directed, and motivated by selfish righteousness rather than the beauty of God's laws.
They knew the scriptures backward and forward.
They taught of God's redemption bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.
They molded their existence to be pure and holy before God.
But in doing so…they missed the whole point.
You see, the haunting of the Christian faith is that we will turn life into some grand production.
We'll see the law, and totally miss the spirit.
We'll find comfort in the lists we create, and as long as we check them off, the demon of apathy rests like a blanket over our souls, keeping us from the MOST important things.
The Pharisees actually took the law so serious, they counted the grains of spice and tithed them as the Old Testament taught them.
Have you ever seen Cumin?
Go and open the jar of dill in the spice rack.
They are the smallest of all spices, yet the Pharisees were dedicated to counting every grain so they would line up with God's law. It was right. It was true. It was the way God taught them to be different in a society of selfish gain; but they forgot.
Although God gave them the law to tithe, the most important parts of God's message to us is to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.
Too often, we get caught in the same stuff. Don't we?
Our lives turn into Christian production for the sake of production. We put on good shows. We try and dedicate every area of our lives to pleasing God. We desire SO MUCH to live within the confines of God's righteousness, and all the while we personally stand on the sidelines when it comes to major issues like global slavery, human trafficking, and orphan care.
We've reduced those actions to "that" faith, referred to as a social gospel, and we continue trying to build a personal life God will find pleasing.
Well, what if personal faith is only one part of the equation.
What if God desires our pious dedication
What if God wants our tithe….
As well as a care for people around us.
What if he wants our holiness, ALONG WITH our partnership in caring for the world.
What if we are putting all our emphasis on the small things, and we're missing the overall message of God's reconciliation.
Oh people of faith….
May we continue searching for the heart of God in everyday life.
May we not rest comfortably in our devotion, as we watch those God loves so much slide into injustice.
May we love God so much, and devote ourselves to His mission so much, that our devotion comes as an outcropping of our desire to see His message reach the poor, the afflicted, and the hurting in the world.
This is what Haunts me.
This is what Scares me.
This is what I long so diligently to know…The Heart of God.
This is my calling to the teenagers of the world.
For "religion God our father finds pure and undefiled is to care for the orphans and the widows; AND to remain unstained from the world." James 1:27