“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. …. You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! …. For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23: 23-24 NLT)
The Camel in the Room
“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly”, was a goofy campfire song we’d use back in my youth ministry days. With each verse she’d add a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat, a cow and finally a horse! “I don’t know why she swallowed the fly” was a recurring chorus.
Jesus’ chorus is “I don’t know why you’d swallow a camel” in addressing the obsessive approach to religious practice of his critics. Wash cups, strain water, tithe herbs – not bad practices but they enabled them to avoid doing what really mattered.
This is Lent week five. Perhaps we are “giving up” something to prepare us for upcoming Holy Week and Easter. All good things as long as they don’t mask the deeper need to be more just, more merciful and more faith-full.
We can be scrupulously obsessive in our religious observance and miss the music in the loving heart of God.
A Prayer for Today
Loving God, you know my propensity to find easy ways to give back to you. Help me today to hear your call away from self-indulgence to lovingly follow you. Let my voice in this season of Lent be raised for those who need to hear your call to justice, mercy and faith. And let me do what I say …. For Jesus’ sake.