3) Focus on menial task while neglecting the more important task.
You tithe mint, dill and cumin
Tithing appears first in Genesis 14:17-20 and Genesis 28:18-22 .Deuteronomy 14:23 taught that you should tithe a tenth of your Grain, wine and oil and first born of the flock.
Deuteronomy 14:23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.
A farmer was actually tithing anywhere from 17-20 Percent of their income. Instead of focusing on the plain teaching of what God told them to do, they added to that with making it even more menial and taxing than God intended. If you could imagine bringing home spices from the grocery store and measuring out ten percent of every spice you get an idea of what they were doing. They added spices to their tithe even though it was not required.
This happens today when we add to the word of God instead of just doing what it says. When we add extra rules to people’s lives instead of taking into consideration where they are at spiritually. When we make things like being at the church every time the doors are open a judgment for where you are spiritually we add to the word of God.
These you ought to have done
It was not bad what they were doing but they were more focused on doing that then they were the more important things in life. Tithing is an important aspect of the Christian life because it shows that we trust in God and that He is the provider of all our needs. The Word tithe means ten percent and we honor God when we give back to Him with what we have been given.
One of the reasons we pass the plate at the church I attend is because we consider giving part of worship. For many of us giving is an act of worship because you are trusting God for your daily needs as you place back a portion of what He has already given.
Anyone cans say they trust God when life is easy but when the economy tanks now who do you trust?
To Fear the Lord mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:23 is not a scared fear but the fear of awe at how great He is and how much He loves us. Reverence, wonderment acknowledgement of His power. So we give out of reverence to God and trust in His providing for our every need.
But no matter how much you give it does not make up for the things that God finds more important.
Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?
Two of these are directed toward our neighbors and one is directed to God
Justice: Fairness based on Truth
We have justice built in us because God is a Just God. Every Tribe and Nation has always had a sense of right and wrong that was put in us from our Creator.
Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
We like to tell people that they do not have the right to judge me but that means that we have no right to tell you what is right and what is wrong. Christianity is about judging and we are judged by God compared to His Holiness and perfection. The Difference is God makes us perfect through Jesus Christ and so our judgment falls on Christ and not on our own lives if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
We hate when things are not fair because we judge them not to be fair. True Judgment can only come from True Righteousness or perfection. When you go to the store to get a paint chart you have a base color that all the other colors are based on. For instance off-white is compared to white which is the base color. So all judgments are eventually judged by God because He is the basis for which we judge all other things.
We judge imperfectly because we are imperfect but God Judges perfectly because He is perfect. All standards of right and wrong are based against who He is.
We try and change those standards in some areas but Justice always comes from the truth that is why in a court of law we say “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? No justice can be administered without the truth.
No God is truly righteous and Just if Justice is not applied to the situation
Mercy: Relieving the misery of the individual that they cannot do for themselves
Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Right Judging requires right action. Gods Justice demanded a payment and that payment was death. (Romans 6:23) God’s mercy provided a way through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:7)
The people that were coming to the religious leaders were coming broken and sinful. Instead of showing mercy and forgiveness they only piled on more judgment and criticism.
We have to be careful to not get past a persons actions and see what God is doing in their lives. When someone calls out for mercy and forgiveness then we have to respond appropriately. When we cry out to God He not only judges that we have sinned but then He did something about it by demonstrating mercy through Jesus Christ.
God never overlooks sin He did something about it through the death of Jesus Christ.
Faithfulness: Dedicated to God and His Word
As Micah 6:8 already said God requires you to walk humbly with your God. The religious leaders were anything but humble and were arrogant with how they acted and toward others. Remember they were twisting scripture to fit their lifestyles instead of humbling their lifestyles to fit Gods word. This does mean not calling sin what God calls sin as some in our society do but it is mercy demonstrated in the midst of their sin.
You are blind guides who strain the gnat but swallow the camel
The gnat and the camel represented the largest and the smallest of the ceremonial unclean animals. (Leviticus 11:4, 42)
Gnats would fly and sip out of the wine jar and sometimes fall in so they would have to take a cloth and strain out anything that fell into the jar . Some of the Pharisees would drink their wine with clenched teeth to make sure that they would not swallow a gnat by accident and therefore become ceremonially unclean.
Jesus point again, is that you focus on little things but you forget the big things.
Read Matthew 23:25-28
4) They focus on outward actions while neglecting inward attitudes
You clean the outside of the cup and dish
The idea of the cup and dish was something that would have looked like fine china but would have had spoiled milk or rotten food on the inside.
So they may have looked good on the outside but Jesus said they were full of greed and self-indulgences. Remember they were false shepherds who did not care for the people God placed under them but only for themselves.
You are like white washed tombs
Tombs would have been cleaned for several reasons. One was because for Passover people would be coming to town and they cleaned everything up so it shined. (Like a town getting ready for a super bowl )
Tombs would be cleaned so that people would not touch them accidently and be declared ceremonially un- clean for Passover. (Numbers 19:16)
They would have glistened in the sun as travelers were approaching and would have looked beautiful from a distance. The problem with tombs is that no matter how good they looked they are dead on the inside. This was not a nice statement Jesus was saying to them.
Any of us that grew up in the South and went to church probably understand this more than anyone. You used to dress up in your best outfits, put on a smile on your face and walked into church as if everything in your life was great even though it wasn’t. You faked every church experience so others thought that you had it all together.
First Clean the Inside
Jesus emphasis is on a person changing who they are from the inside out not the outside in.
Christianity is a complete transformation that is not based on appearance but on an inward change.
Romans 8:8-10 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
So although a lot of the religious leaders activities looked good they were dead on the inside and dead to God. When we accept the Spirit of God into our lives then He brings our Spirits alive with Him. When we are changed on the inside then it changes us on the outside.
Christianity is not behavior modification but life transformation.
Read Matthew 23:29-36
5) They believe they are above the same sins committed by others
None of us believe we would act the way others would act. They said they would never kill the prophets but they are getting ready to kill Jesus. Too many times when people sin we think we are above it and would never be like them but we are all capable of any sin that has been committed.
The religious leaders would brag about how if they were living when some of Gods prophets were sent that they would never have did what their fathers did but yet they will be guilty of the same things.
You fill up the measure of your fathers
Jesus was saying that the scheming they were planning that they thought no one knew about was coming about. They were getting ready to complete what their fathers had started.
The cup of Gods wrath is the amount of sin that God will allow till His judgment is put in action. God will allow sin to go on for so long and then payment is required.
The Measuring cup was a symbol of how God has mercy but for only so long. Genesis 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
This is similar to the end time judgments when God will extend mercy and grace only for so long and then His judgment will be final. Those who accepted Jesus Christ will go to Heaven and those who did not will go to Hell.
Revelations 11:18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants,[a] the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
How many times do we test the patience of God by continually to sin? God’s patience goes for only so long and then His wrath. As Christians we escape His wrath because He already poured out His wrath on Jesus.
Snakes, Offspring of Vipers
Jesus takes His condemnation even further.
Vipers were the snakes that looked like sticks and struck and killed many people as they were collecting firewood (See Acts 28:3-6) To call them Offspring meant they were spreading their poison. (See Matthew 3:7)
How will you escape the Judgment?
The idea along with the snakes is a farmer who would burn his field to get it ready for the next planting season. The vipers dens would be built among the stubble but when the snake would try and escape the fire would catch him.
Literally you cannot out run Gods judgment. God’s wrath will be poured out either you can accept the wrath yourself or accept the wrath that Jesus took on the cross. The only way to escape God’s judgment is to repent before you get to the point of filling up the cup.