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.

Sharing Spices and Missing the Point:

 

spices-1477563-640x425On Sunday we are going to be looking at something that is controversial, but well Jesus says it so we should believe it – and it’s this:

Some rules matter more than others.

And while that might strike you as odd or even untrue – the trouble is it’s biblical. Biblically speaking while there are lots of important rules, or rhythms we should have as Christians there are some that matter more than others. And that even if you do some of the minor obligations, or regulations but miss the big ones – Jesus isn’t happy.

And while it sounds funny that there is actually a hierarchy of importance in the way of following Jesus it is true. Jesus himself says that there is a “greatest commandment’ which means there are “minor commandments”. And here is the tension: sometimes we value or prioritize the minors over the majors.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. But here is the question I have for you before we get there: what do you think the majors of faith are? Think about it, pray about it, and then on Sunday let’s see what Jesus has to say about it.

Keeping the Rules can Keep You From God

On Sunday we are going to be looking at a super well-known teaching of Jesus but not some of its well-known implications. The teaching is the teaching of the Prodigal Son. So many people are familiar with this amazing story and teaching. But what most people, especially Christians, aren’t familiar with is some of the startling teaching that’s within it.

The startling teaching is this: that keeping all the rules can actually keep you from God.

That’s right, that following all the rules, obeying all of God’s commandments, can actually, in some circumstances, distance you from God. The reality is that not only does the prodigal son need forgiveness and acceptance by the Father in the story; but so too does the older righteous brother. Both sons in the story are lost and on1209888_22374533 Sunday we’ll discover how the one son is lost by breaking the rules, and the other is lost by keeping them.

This is a hugely important topic for us to reflect on, because it is easy to see how we create distance between God and us when we break the rules. It is really difficult for us to see how we create distance between God and us by how we follow the rules.

So on Sunday that’s where we’re going. And I know initially this idea, that keeping the rules can keep you from God might seem startling or even shocking – but it is true. Simply look at the Gospels and see that the people who kept the rules the best, (the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law) were often furthest from Jesus.

So the question is: how can keeping the rules get in the way of following God?

It’s worth thinking about and reflecting on before Sunday. Because if there is any distance between us and God, either by following or breaking the rules, we want to acknowledge it and close it.

Because one thing is clear in the parable of the prodigal son: it’s best to be inside the party with the Father.