It’s so easy to let hypocritical attitudes creep into our hearts and allow ourselves to become religious pretenders. We may look good on the outside, but have hearts full of envy, greed, anger, worry, and self-righteousness. In the process we lose the joy of our salvation and find ourselves just going through the motions of the Christian life.
Exodus 23 & 24
Straining Gnats & Swallowing Camels
Beginning in yesterday’s reading, Jesus, in talking to the scribes and Pharisees, uses the phrase “woe to you” eight times. He calls them hypocrites, religious pretenders who attempted to look good on the outside with all their religious deeds. But he said they were full of spiritual death inside. They lacked love and mercy, justice and faith. They believed their religious activities and long public prayers made them better than everyone else. They refused to see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior.
They loved themselves instead of the poor and needy. They legalistically carried out the law against others without mercy. In verse 24 He called them “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” They not only couldn’t see where they were going, but were leading others astray also. They couldn’t or wouldn’t see their own sinful hearts. Because of their knowledge of the law and pretending to live it, He said they would receive a “greater condemnation.”
The law designated certain things as clean and others as unclean, including animals. Unclean animals, like camels, could be used as beasts of burden, etc., but were not to be eaten or used as sacrifices. This was a picture to them, and us, of God’s desire to have a people set apart for Himself with clean hearts—a holy people.
Gnats were the smallest of the unclean animals and camels the largest. Some of the Pharisees would strain their drinks through cloth to keep from inadvertently swallowing a gnat. They focused on all the religious “minors,” while ignoring the “majors”—the attitudes of the heart. Continue reading