GNATS AND CAMELS
The scribes and Pharisees were, literally, anti-Christ. Not only were they enemies of the Gospel, but of Jesus Christ Himself.
Importantly, that fact made them enemies of those receiving the good news of the Gospel.
Speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus accused them of being “ blind guides” . He also described their attitude as “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy about having “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”.
The scribes and Pharisees were just such people, making public displays of their religious practices and knowledge. Their concern wasn't for the souls of the people they instructed, but for their own reputation as the religious gurus of the day.
Paul counselled Timothy to, “Avoid such people.”
The amount of gnat straining about peripheral matters, and self promotion, amongst “leaders” of so many different brands of the religion of Christianity, causes me to wonder!
There is an obvious battle raging on many fronts, sometimes heated and ungracious, about systematic theologies, rules, regulations, legalism, authoritarianism, and an umpteen other isms, as well as about who is interpreting Scripture the most accurately, and whose turf another is infringing upon.
So much heat, and energy is being expended on matters which are causing division, broken relationships, severed fellowship; and this, amongst those claiming to be Christian.
Even worse, for many of those to whom the Lord, Jesus Christ,is unknown, this very real battle, is making His cause a matter of mirth and derision, and undermining the opportunities, which are rare enough, to share the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
It is extremely sad when professed believers in the finished work of Christ seem to remain aloof from the rest of their brethren, but for them to function in a way that repels others from opportunities to hear the Gospel. The fact that those who profess to believe Gospel are so obnoxious, and lacking evidence of grace, is reprehensible, to say the least.
As Jesus was overtly opposed by the scribes and Pharisees with their demonstration of mere show and an empty form of godliness, so Jesus is being opposed, be it ignorantly, by many who have high profiles, in what those observing, understand as “the church”.
Sham piety, so long practiced, by leadership has become normal, both to practitioners, and those those who follow them. As Jesus made very clear to the Pharisees of old, the pretence of righteousness is obnoxious to Him.
There is huge effort, and expense,expended to coerce people into particular religious camps, which is professed to be for the glory of God and the good of souls, but much like the Pharisees, the motivation is that the practitioners receive kudos for their “making of converts”, and the gains which accompany them.
Jesus had severe words about such behaviour, fastidiousness and precision regarding the matters of “law” that Pharisees focussed on whilst they, “ neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others”.
My upbringing, and later training, for what was supposed to be Christian ministry, was very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, very scrupulous in “straining a gnat” but in the process, both myself and my peers became expert in “swallowing a camel”. We were trained to “clean the outside of the cup and plate”.
Perceptions were more important than reality!
Jesus showed the scribes and Pharisees that what we truly are, inwardly, no matter who we are,is of major importance to Him.
The spiritual debt of all who are truly “ living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” was carried to the cross on the shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ,to the cross, to account for the sin of all who trust His finished work, but the show and pretence of righteousness of so many today, like that of the scribes and Pharisees reminds me of what an undertaker friend of mine used to do, dressing up dead bodies, for viewing by the deceased, solely for show.
Have you ever thrown a stick in a flowing body of water? Closer to shore, the stick moves slowly, and ,as it is drawn more and more into the current, it begins to move faster, until it becomes one with the flow.
That's exactly what happens when our outward righteousness is to make a good impression, and keep criticism at bay.
Under our tutors we become very careful that what we really are is masked by the outward show, little realising that by unthinkingly, and uncritically, receiving their teaching and lead we have been thrown into the stream, in the still waters near the shore, and, imperceptibly at first, we move into the current, and move more easily into the flow of pretence,even deceiving ourselves that the deception we are in is not sinful.
Paul, in Romans I 24-25, wrote “ God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!”
We have no trouble applying that to the pagans of Paul's day and agreeing that God is just to give them over to their hearts' desires, and their insistence in gratifying those desires, but great difficulty in applying any question regarding ourselves.
Causes me to think deeply about what we are seeing today in much of what is professed to be Christianity.
The question I ask myself: Is God giving us up to our lusts, revealing our true characters?