WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
APRIL 6, 2022
TOPIC: THE WEIGHTIER MATTERS OF THE LAW
BY T. O. BANSO
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23 New King James Version).
It is possible to disobey a higher law and disobey a lower law. Have you sat for an examination before where you answered other questions but neglected the compulsory questions? Maybe you didn’t understand the questions, or you didn’t read the instruction well to know there were compulsory questions.
The scribes and Pharisees were the official interpreters of Moses’ laws. Thus, they were familiar with the details of the law. However, it doesn’t mean that they obeyed the law in detail. They focused on some aspects of the law but neglected the others. The important things of the law were not their favorites! But they were not supposed to neglect any law.
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23 New King James Version).
From this passage, Jesus didn’t condemn the scribes and Pharisees for paying tithes as the Israelites were commanded (Numbers 18:20-24; Deuteronomy 14:22-24; 28-29). But the scribes and Pharisees had gone to the extent of payment of tithes on insignificant things as mint and anise and cumin, which were herbs of small value. However, Jesus said they neglected weightier matters of the law or the more important things of the law. Paying tithes would not compensate for this. Obeying one did not cancel the other. They should have done both.
The Bible in Basic English puts Matthew 23:23 this way: “A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you make men give a tenth of all sorts of sweet-smelling plants, but you give no thought to the more important things of the law, righteousness, and mercy, and faith; but it is right for you to do these, and not to let the others be undone.”
What Jesus referred to as the weightier matters of the law, as the New King James Version puts it, are “justice and mercy and faith.” In Bible in Basic English, they are called the more important things: “righteousness, and mercy, and faith.”
Jesus said they ought to have done these weightier matters or more important things of the law without leaving the others undone. In other words, they would not be excused from the more important things of the law and the other laws just because they had paid tithes. Obeying the law on paying tithes and other laws but neglecting justice (righteousness) and mercy and faith would not exonerate them from the guilt of not obeying other laws.
Luke 11:42 also records similar words by Jesus to the Pharisees, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (New King James Version). Here, Luke says they bypassed or ignored justice and love of God. This means justice to fellow human beings and love for God. They were not just to others and did not love God.
This, in a way, is similar to the greatest commandment and the next to it. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 New King James Version). Mark 12:29-31 also talks about these first and second commandments.
You will recall the self-righteousness of that Pharisee while praying in the temple. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12 New King James Version).
You would think that this Pharisee had satisfied the requirements of God. But that’s not so. If we concede to him what he said that he had done, what about the weightier matters of the law which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 23:23? Have you heard someone say before, “But I’ve always paid my tithe, why?” or “But I fasted, why?”
The nature of the law was that if you failed in one, you failed in all. James 2:10 says whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. Our righteousness cannot save us. Isaiah 64:6a says we are all like an unclean thing, and “all our righteousnesses” are like filthy rags.
Self-righteousness will save nobody. Only the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, will save anyone. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3 New King James Version). This scripture talks about two kinds of righteousness: God’s righteousness and self-righteousness
Let’s go back to Luke 18. Unlike the self-righteous Pharisee, the tax collector humbled himself before God as he prayed in the temple. “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14 New King James Version).
While the scribes and Pharisees prided themselves on paying tithes even paying the tithe of the most insignificant things, they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy, and faith.
God considers justice and mercy and faith as more important things. And it’s possible to be faithful in paying tithe and neglect these. Jesus said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13 New King James Version). He said a similar thing in Matthew 12:7: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (New King James Version).
Showing mercy to others is more important to God than paying tithe. James 2:13a says judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). As someone who has obtained mercy from God, you should show others mercy.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (New King James Version).
As the Bible says in Proverbs 21:3, to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Also, the LORD says in Zechariah 7:9, “Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother” (New King James Version). In Amos 5:24, the LORD also says let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Faith is equally important. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Unfortunately, the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees neglected these more important things of the law.
The truth is that these weightier matters of the law could not be done by the natural man as nobody could satisfy the requirements of the law. Therefore, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and He imputed to us the righteousness of God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (New King James Version).
We are no longer under the law (Romans 6:14). Does that mean Christians are free to act lawlessly and we are no longer to do the mightier matters of the law? No. Those who believe in Jesus are no longer subjected to the weakness of the law; we are now under grace. We are now better placed to fulfil what the law intended to be done but couldn’t do. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
Galatians 2:16 says that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. It further says that we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified.
With the help of the Holy Spirit in those who believe in Jesus Christ, we can act in justice and mercy towards others and have faith in God, which wasn’t possible under the law. We can love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. We can also love our neighbour as ourselves. Roamans 13:10 says love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. Love fully staisfies the law. This is possible as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Thus producing what is called the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (New King James Version). The Holy Spirit helps us to live a life full of justice and mercy and faith.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner, and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and was raised on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, I pray that those priding themselves on self-righteousness will humble themselves, repent, and accept the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Having accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I shall not again seek to establish my own righteousness but will continue to submit to the righteousness of God. Holy Spirit, help me to live a life full of justice, mercy, and faith. I shall not neglect what is more important to God and focus on lesser things.
(For over 800 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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