You know that your Master was the most loving human being to ever walk the earth. In coming to fulfill the Law of God, He did so by fully living out what the Law is built on and of which it consists: love. It is that very love that He is determined to teach His disciples in the day-to-day business of life.
In all of His complete love, however, He was capable of some very brutal rhetoric. He unloaded very harshly on a certain group of men who were leading and teaching the people of God at the time. He called them hypocrites, blind guides, sons of Gehenna, full of wickedness, brood of vipers, and murderers. As “the good Shepherd”, His love moved Him to jealous anger for the sake of His sheep.
There is much for you to learn from your Master’s scathing rebukes of these hypocrites, Disciple. There is one statement in particular I invite you to consider carefully:
“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (v. 24)
Quite a vivid picture, isn’t it? They certainly did “strain out a gnat”. Their rigor regarding the fine points of the Law was known far and wide. They were very careful to give the first tenth of everything they had. They were exact on every outward point of Law and tradition. They were sure to catch and condemn any breach of the legal code.
What was the problem, then? Wasn’t careful attention to the Law an admirable thing? Not to Jesus. Not the way they demonstrated it. While they were careful not to stumble in the fine details, they completely ignored the most crucial and significant matters of concern to God in really living life: “justice, mercy, and faithfulness”. They didn’t love people or God. They didn’t have compassion, nor were they merciful. They swallowed the “camel” of arrogant pride – the deadliest of all spiritual diseases.
Learn from this cautionary tale, Disciple. You have entered into a life of discipline and of devotion to the commands of your Master. You are to do what He commanded and teach others to do the same. Yet, you will be tempted, just as those respectable hypocrites were, to focus on the minor details of Christian tradition while ignoring the greater concerns of the Father’s heart.
Be clear today, Disciple, about what your Master has said and what others have said. Seek out a confident knowledge of His concerns, His values, and His focus. Do not become distracted by the concerns, values, and focus of others who claim to speak for Him. There are gnats to strain out as you live your Christian life, to be sure, but never forget that they are much easier to digest than a camel! Live a life focused on justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Love God genuinely from the heart. Love others with that same genuineness. This is the simple life of a child of God at home in His Kingdom without end.
Living the genuine life with you,