Jesus over the crowds who had gathered to hear him speak. He could see stone faced men in expensive robes on the fringes of the crowd. Jesus knew these men; they were Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who took great pride in their obedience to all kinds of religious laws and regulations. They even strained their drinking water so they would not accidentally swallow a tiny gnat and so break the Jewish laws about eating "unclean" animals.
But Jesus wasn't impressed by their efforts. In fact, he was angry at the Pharisees because the whole time they were observing all the tiny regulations about washing their hands before eating and how far they could walk on the Sabbath, their lives were filled with cruelty and unkindness and other sins.
"Woe to you," Jesus said, speaking directly to the frowning men on the edges of the crowd. He referred to their habit of giving a tenth of even the tiniest parts of their income to God, while at the same time they treated people unfairly, unmercifully, and unfaithfully. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" (Matthew 23:23, NIV). In other words, Jesus was saying, "It's no good to make a point of obeying God in the tiniest detail if at the same time you disobey him in the more important areas of justice, mercy, and faithfulness."
Jesus made it clear that faithfulness is one of the things God desires most from his people. He wants us to be faithful; in fact, he commands it. He wants us to be faithful to him, to our families, to our friends, and to our fellow Christians. He wants us to be faithful to those who depend on us. Why? Because faithfulness, according to Jesus, is one of "the more important matters of the law." That means if we are not faithful, we are not obeying God. Because God commands faithfulness.
REFLECT: Do you think you're a faithful person? Are you faithful to God? to your family? friends? fellow Christians? How do your actions show your faithfulness? If you've been unfaithful or disloyal in some way, have you asked for God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the person you let down or disappointed?
ACT: Borrow a spice container from your parents' spice rack. Keep it on your dresser or bedside table for the next day or two to remind you of today's Bible reading as well as not to neglect "the more important matters of the law," like faithfulness to your family, friends, and all "who depend on you."
PRAY: "Lord, I know you command faithfulness, but I haven't always been faithful. I ask your forgiveness for those times I've been unfaithful. Help me to be more faithful, with your help, from now on."