13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
We have given up a lot as a church these past months. We have given up communal worship and fellowship; mission projects and Sunday schools. In our own lives maybe we have given up things that we thought we could never do without—time with family and friends, routines, time in the office, time at the gym. How many of these would we have thought made a big part of our lives? The composite picture amounts a big part of who we are. But maybe this time is a gift for us to figure out exactly what is essential for us. Jesus makes a distinction between the things the Pharisees tithe for appearance’s sake—mint, dill, and cumin, which are small and insignificant spices—versus their neglect of justice, mercy, and faith. How much of our daily lives amounted to this former, insignificant category? And do the limitations of this time really preclude us from thinking about justice, mercy, and faith in our own lives in a serious way? What is most important?
God, we cannot know the right way to live or to give without your help. Be with us in our daily living: that all we would do and offer to our neighbors would be a testament to your great love for us, in Jesus Christ. Amen.