When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
In the above passage, Jesus indicts the Jewish religious leaders for six things. The first thing He mentions is, “You neglect justice and the love of God.” What Jesus is pointing out to these self-righteous religious leaders is that true religion is not a matter of externalities. It is a heart affair. They had false values. What should have been a priority was neglected or ignored. In all things, we are to reflect the heart of God. What is important to God should be important to His children. The last three weeks we have looked at many Scripture passages that truly reveal the heart of God toward the poor and the oppressed. To deny these realities would be to deny God Himself. These religious leaders were more concerned about keeping ceremonies than about reflecting God’s true nature in the world.
Like the Pharisees, we also must be careful not to “neglect justice and the love of God.” Biblical justice is about right thinking, right motives, and right actions. Biblical justice refers to godly actions that reflect God’s thinking and His motives. It is not about trying to adhere to the letter of the law but living out the heart of it in our daily conduct. Now, social justice typically means redistributing resources to make everyone equal. Biblical justice is about recognizing the worth of everybody and treating them with respect and dignity because, like us, they were made in the image of God.
God’s compassion is evidenced in His hearing the cries of the poor and delivering them from oppression. The nation Israel was formed from people who were delivered from Egyptian bondage. After the exodus, God instructed this new nation never to turn their backs on the destitute and the weak. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). God is the defense attorney for those who cannot defend themselves. He will plead their cause and trumpet justice on their behalf. So, if we are God’s representatives here on earth, then we must not ignore the plight of the oppressed. Some of God’s main attributes are love, compassion, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness, patience, kindness, and gentleness. So, it seems to me that in order to reflect God rightly in this world, we must not neglect justice and the love of God!
Questions to Ponder:
Do you ever find yourself obeying the letter of the law while at the same time denying the heart of it? Do you find yourself giving to the cause of the poor out of duty and not out of love? Do you reflect God’s justice and love in your everyday actions?
- Thank the LORD for His unfailing love, faithfulness to you and His compassion toward you.
- Ask God to reveal areas in your heart with Him (your relationship with Him) where it is duty or routine. Confess what the Spirit of God reveals to you. Receive His forgiveness.
- Ask Abba to enable you to love others the way He does. Ask Him to show you how much He loves the person in front of you.
Father of love, I declare You are good, perfect, compassionate, merciful, faithful, righteous – altogether lovely. I praise you with my heart and lips for there is none like your Oh God, You are the one and only true God.
Thank You for revealing to me what it looks like to move in love. Thank You Abba for the one human race with so many different shade and personalities. Father I confess I am a sinner and have sinned against You Lord by giving and doing things to be seen out of duty rather than for You and those hurting. Forgive me. I confess there have been times I have walked past or even looked away from those oppressed in front of me. I’m so sorry Lord. Forgive me.
Lord of heaven and earth, I ask that You enable me by the power of Your Spirit within me, to be changed on the inside. Help me oh God. Grant me grace to grow up in You Lord. Change my heart that grumbles, complains and judges others, especially those different from me or those who are oppressed. Change my heart, oh God. I want to be moved by love, to pray for their heart, and to know how to respond. You love freely with no conditions. God, demolish judgement in my heart so that I may love like You do. I ask in the powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.