The Pharisees Disobeyed God’s Law

The Real Pharisees

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).

This passage is often misunderstood and misapplied. The common idea is that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for focusing too much on details when they should have focused on other matters instead. Those who allege this will argue that we must follow the “weightier provisions” and that the smaller details are, therefore, unimportant.

However, Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for doing something that was unnecessary while neglecting what was necessary. Instead, He said they should have done all that He mentioned – applying the “weightier provisions of the law” while also being careful to keep even the smaller details.

Jesus did not tell the Pharisees that they should have ignored the details so they could focus on the weightier matters. He said, “These are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Because they failed to carry out part of the law (the provisions of justice, mercy, and faithfulness), they were disobedient to the law of God.

Furthermore, since Jesus said they “should have done [these things] without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23), we know that if they failed to tithe as they should, they also would have been guilty of disobedience to the law of God.

When Jesus gave His apostles the Great Commission, He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This means that the Lord expects His disciples to do “all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:20). We are not at liberty to do as the Pharisees did with regard to the Law of Moses – keep some of the commandments and neglect others. We must strive to follow all of the instructions that have been given for Christians to keep in the New Testament. We must remember that Christ has been given “all authority” (Matthew 28:18); therefore, we are obligated to obey His word.

Furthermore, the carefulness of the Pharisees in keeping certain details was not condemned. In fact, carefulness is commended to us elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul told Titus, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men” (Titus 3:8). The word translated careful means “to be thoughtful” (Thayer). In other words, we are not to be careless in following God’s word or have a casual attitude about our obedience to Him. We must be deliberate in our efforts to do what is taught in the word of God.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are not the ones who emphasize careful obedience to the word of God. Instead, they are those who fail to do what has been instructed in His word.

The above post is an excerpt from the book, The Real Pharisees by Andy Sochor. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

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