Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.
This is the fourth of seven woes spoken directly by Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees. According to the Torah, the purpose of tithing was the support and upkeep of the temple cult and its officials, namely priests and levites. Jesus condemns the preoccupation with the concern over the smallest of herbs, while justice, mercy and faith are neglected.
Justice, mercy and faith – let’s start there. What do these words mean to us in our society today – in our jobs, our families, our friendships? We try to do the right thing, we show mercy and compassion to those around us, and we stay strong in our faith. But what if those we interact with don’t do these basic necessities to enable us to remain close to our God in heaven? What happens to us when we are placed in situations that seem hopeless; when we believe that we don’t have a voice; when we are made to feel small? Well then, we are losing sight of the beautiful and amazing gifts that God has in store for us – we should depend on Him alone, not solely in people. In our sensitivities and compassion for others, it becomes very difficult to maintain your beliefs when you surround yourself with those who make you feel small and insignificant – but we can’t allow anyone to make us feel that way! I am guilty of allowing it myself!
Secondly, do you know those who make themselves appear to be holy on the outside, but their heart isn’t a servant’s heart; their ears don’t listen to the truths around them; their mouths refuse to speak and accept the truth. In truth, are their intentions to make improvements and to live out their lives according to God’s almighty plan thwarted by pride and arrogance? Keep your vessel filled in order to do the work of the Holy Spirit, with a servant’s heart. Remain immersed in the faith, so that when you speak the truth, you speak with authority. And check your pride and arrogance at the door – that is one cup that does not need to be overflowing!
Patty Masson is a member of the Passionist Family in Houston, Texas.