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In Matthew, Chapter 23 Yeshua is addressing the crowds and talking about the hypocrisy He sees in the Pharisees. He discusses how, in essence, they are more concerned about looking superior in people’s eyes then they are concerned with doing what is righteous in God’s eyes. They go through the motions of being righteous but they do not have righteousness as their goal. Instead, they seek the praise of men instead of acceptance by God.
Today I want to talk about one of the better known verses, Matthew 23:23-24:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier 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 see this all too often in the discussion groups I am a member of. There are many well-learned and knowledgeable people in these groups and I respect their understanding and years of study. However, when I see a discussion on a specific topic devolve into insulting accusations and judging of each other, I have to ask myself: is the topic a camel or a gnat?
Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoy discussing anything that has to do with God, Yeshua and the bible as much as anyone else, but what happens too many times is that the discussion turns ugly. People stop trying to edify each other or work to better understand God’s meaning because pridefulness rears its ugly head.
We are told not to judge others because how we judge others will be used to judge us. OK- everyone knows that, but how many people really understand what it means? I am sure all of us have seen someone who thinks they are God’s own spokesperson, judging others and telling them that they are wrong, or that they will go to hell, that they are apostate, are demonically controlled….whatever. They accuse and abase people who may only need to be gently led into the truth of the Torah. But by being superior and judgmental, they are no better than the Pharisees Yeshua accused of hypocrisy. They turn people away from God by declaring themselves as an example of a godly person then acting in a way that is completely opposite of what they say they represent.
And why do they do this? Is it justified to call someone a sinner because they may say it is OK to wear a polyester blend? Or because someone else says it is fine to use the name “Jesus” in prayer? Is there anyone out there, really, who is authorized by God to determine who is going to hell and who isn’t? Are any of you in the place of God?
Oh, yes, I know what the prideful will say: “We are told that we will judge the earth and I am only judging you righteously.” Yes, there are those who will judge the earth…but not yet!
Who are we, any of us, to tell someone else today what God will decide about them later? Are we in the place of God? Are we above the messengers of God?
Let’s look at Y’hudah (Jude) 1:8-10:
But even the archangel Michael, when he disputed with the devil over the body of Moses, did not presume to bring a slanderous judgment against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” These men, however, slander what they do not understand, and like irrational animals, they will be destroyed by the things they do instinctively.…
King David tells us in Psalm 8 that God made us just a little lower than the angels. Well, if an archangel, the highest of all the angels, is willing to submit himself to God’s authority by not judging one who anyone and everyone knows is certainly deserving of judgement (Satan), then who are we to do so to each other?
I am not against discussing details and minutia that is in the bible. I mean, c’mon- I’m Jewish! If any of God’s creatures loves a good argument, it’s a Jew, right? So what am I kvetching about? It’s the pridefulness of people which a discussion will bring out when one is not paying attention to the more important things- compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and respect.
The gnat of a topic is strained while the sin of pridefulness is swallowed.
When someone says that they are ‘judging righteously,’ I hear nothing more than, “I know better than you and you need to acknowledge that by agreeing with me!” Maybe that person does know better, but does that give them the right to judge me? As a person? As a believer? As a child of God? Do they have the insight to see my heart? Do they have some special gift that can reach out across the Internet and know my inner desires?
No, it doesn’t. No one has that ability, unless God gives it to them, and I am pretty sure from what I have read about God that He wouldn’t give them that ability so that they can abase and insult people.
Again…don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying we should allow others to sin without telling them about it. Far be it that we ever do that- their blood is then on our heads. NO! We must advise people when we see them sinning, or when they have a dangerously wrong interpretation of the Word of God. What I AM saying is that we must do this compassionately, with forgiveness for their ignorance (“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”) and also for their inappropriate response (if you get one) when we tell them.
We need to have the spiritual maturity to know when someone’s mind won’t be changed, and the emotional maturity to accept that they have a right to their own opinion. I have ended discussions nicely when I see that we are at loggerheads. In doing this I have been accused of being afraid of the truth, or stubborn, or lukewarm. I regret to say that I have been called worse things than that, all because I asked people to stop talking about something that we disagree on.
To bring it all together, let me finish by reiterating that discussion is valuable when it edifies people and can serve to help everyone involved better understand God’s word. My concern is that we all need to be aware of our innate pridefulness and remain humble with each other, discussing with love and respect for each other, as well as for God’s word, and to also remember that we are not to judge the world- not yet.
Therefore, we need to be careful when we enter into discussions about God, bible, or how to best obey the commandments. We need to be compassionate, understanding, forgiving and spiritually mature in our handling of both learned and neophyte Believers.
Any topic is only a “gnat” because the way we treat each other is a “camel.”
Speak truth to each other with humility and compassionate understanding, and until God Himself assigns us a throne in heaven we should follow the example of the archangel Michael and submit to God’s authority to judge others.