New Testament passage for Tuesday, February 4, 2014: Matthew 23:13-39
23 “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. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matthew 23:23-26 (NKJV)
Last year a small controversy erupted at a zoo in the city of Luohe, China.* Their "African lion" blew his cover when he started barking! Come to find out, the zoo officials said the zoo couldn't afford a real lion so they substituted a Tibetan mastiff -- a large, long-haired breed of dog. It was later discovered the zoo also posed a white fox as a leopard and a mongrel dog as a timber wolf.
"African lion" in the Luohe zoo (it's really a dog)
Our world is full of fakes. We have fake jewelry, fake I.D.'s, fake leather, and fake college diplomas. It can carry over into church and Christianity. In Jesus' day, the Pharisees were masters at masquerade. They worked hard to make the OUTSIDE look squeaky clean, while all along the INSIDE was filthy.
There are three ways the Pharisees missed it:
1. Majoring on the Minors.
They took pains to count out the grains of an herb (mint, anise, cummin) so they could be sure to pay an exact tithe. Precise obedience in the little things. This pain-staking approach to God reveals a heart full of fear rather than faith.
2. Selective Obedience.
They strained gnats while swallowing camels. Gnats are small; camels are big. Fake spirituality chooses which parts of God's Word to obey. It's like counting calories while shooting up drugs. Pick the easy commandment to obey and forget about the hard ones.
3. Fixated on Outward Appearances.
There is an old saying, "Fake it till you make it." There are many who try to fake it, but unfortunately they rarely make it. The world teaches us "image is everything." It's NOT. I do understand the need to be strong and hold on to the faith. But don't have fake-faith; have REAL FAITH. The Pharisees cleaned up the outside with no regard at all for the dry bones on the inside.
God calls all of us to be SINCERE. The word "sincere" originally means "without wax" (Latin: sine -- without; cera -- wax). Sculptors in biblical times would use wax to cover flaws or cracks in their work. But, when the heat came on, the cracks showed up.
We are called to be God's workmanship -- built by Him (Eph. 2:10). No need for faking. No need for facades. No need to pose a dog as a lion. The fake always gets found out. The "lion" starts barking.
*Luohe is a city of 2.5 million in the province of Henan in east-central China.