Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading in Matthew about the final days of Jesus’ life on earth, his death on the cross, and the resurrection. As I read through the final chapters of Matthew, there is one passage in particular that continues to catch my eye and my heart everytime I sit down to read.
Matthew 23 is not for the faint of heart. In my Bible, the section title reads: A Warning Against Doing Things for the Wrong Reasons.
Verse 23 says, “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and pharisees. You pretenders! You give God a tenth of your spices, like mint, dill and cumin. But you have not practiced the more important things of the law, which are fairness, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first.”
I’m sure I’ve read Matthew 23 numerous times. I’ve heard righteous angry Jesus in my ears and seen righteous angry Jesus in my mind’s eye. I have condescendingly ‘amen-ed’ his words with arms crossed not realizing those words were for me as well.
As I sit here and read them now, with this new perspective, I feel intense compassion. I hear a Savior lamenting the actions of those He loves dearly.
Perhaps you have read it as I have. Try reading it again through the lens of a compassionate Savior:
“How terrible for you, teachers of the law and pharisees. You pretenders! You give God a tenth of your spices, like mint, dill and cumin. But you have not practiced the more important things of the law, which are fairness, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first.”
I don’t want to be that guy. The one who knows the right things to say and who knows the right things to do and does just enough to appear righteous with my imaginary scripture boxes hanging from my “robe”.
I saw this quote recently come through my instagram feed:
“You love as well as you’re willing to be inconvenienced.” - Ann Voskamp
Oftentimes I am VERY guilty of not wanting to be inconvenienced, but in all reality inconvenience is the core of the gospel. Christ was greatly inconvenienced for us afterall.
Here’s my life this month:
Situation: I get a text message that someone’s child is sick.
My response: “I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for you.”
There’s nothing wrong with the response but what about my actions? Where’s the mercy? Where’s the example of God’s faithfulness in my actions? The proverbial “Jesus with skin”?
Perhaps I can bring a meal or pick up some pedialyte or do as my dear friend does often for me: drop off a Sonic Happy Hour Drink for a little encouragement.
Situation: I hear in Life Group that a family is struggling financially?
My response: “Oh wow! I know that must be tough! Praying God provides for you!”
The empathy flows but what can I do to help? Perhaps I have talents or resources available to assist.
Situation: I meet a woman at a playland with her children who comments that they are new to the area, have no family nearby, and are finding it hard to meet friends.
My response: “I know how it feels. We moved here 7 years ago and it took a little time to meet people. It is hard to make friends. Just give it time.”
Sure, that’s encouraging but can’t I do more? Can I pull out my phone and get her number? Can I invite her to try out my LifeGroup?
I want be the person that radiates Christ and points others to Him with my words AND my actions. Sure it’s often inconvenient but it is worth it every single time.
I want to leave that guy behind and move towards authentic love with action.
Will you join me?
Jesus, I don’t want to be that guy. Help me to live in the joy and excitement of being your follower with my radar up looking for those who need your hope and encouragement. I want to be your vessel. Help me to go the extra mile, to share my cloak, to walk in the knowledge AND wisdom that your Spirit so readily provides me. Amen.