Relationship Over Religion

Matthew 23:13–23 (NKJV)

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Jesus waylays the Pharisees with straightforward accusations concerning their unwillingness to go to heaven or allow others to do so. He suggests that the error in which they live and consider normal is delusive and leads others to follow them into the same error. Jesus then addresses specific areas of their religious failures.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

Jesus then addresses their intricate, convoluted system of what can be done relative to oaths. Swearing by the temple is nothing, but swearing by the gold of the temple makes you obligated. Jesus straightened them out quickly by explaining that the oath system is far too complicated and unnecessary. The fact that Jesus spoke on oaths in the Sermon on the Mount explains His opinion of oaths: they are unnecessary altogether.

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.

Jesus then addresses another of their religious failures: they emphasized tithing of every little item over weightier matters of the law. They neglected justice, mercy, and faith in deference to making sure that they provided the temple with 10% of a mint leaf! Be sure that your religiosity does not supercede your spiritual piety. Be a truly spiritual person with a relationship to Jesus Christ instead of just checking off all the boxes on your religious checklist of good deeds. Be a person of God, not a person of religion. God is not necessarily equal with religion. God is above religion. Religion should only be His instrument of peace on the earth. Be sure that your relationship to Christ is more important than your religion.

Artwork from https://reversingverses.com/2013/07/05/matthew-2315/

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