Meanderings of a Minister

Five Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life, Part 3 (Matthew 23:23-24)
February 3, 2011, 2:27 pm
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Part 3, Change Things That Don’t Matter

 For the last two weeks, we have been looking at Matthew 23:13-33 and Five Easy Ways to Wreck Your Life.  In the first week, we looked at Matthew 23:13-15 and we saw that that Pharisees were wrecking their lives in that they did not allow God to aim their lives and the changes they thought were needed.  Since God did not direct that change, they actually moved AWAY from God instead of towards Him.  Jesus criticized them and will us if we do the same thing.  Last week, we looked at Matthew 23:16-22 and saw how the Pharisees changed, but always wanted to leave themselves an out, so they could decide if the change was too hard or not.  We saw that changing inconsistently can actually be worse that not changing at all because we already feel as though we have been there and done that, but have actually not moved towards God or His will for our lives and we end up paralyzed.

This week, we should begin by reading Matthew 23:23-24.  In these passages, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for changing things that don’t matter so that they can feel like they are righteous.  They were tithing (or giving ten percent) of everything that they owned, all the way down to what grew on their plants for spices.  While there is certainly nothing inherently evil about tithing, as a matter of fact, Abram tithed all the way back in Genesis 14, Jacob does so in Genesis 28, it is commanded in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and is even expanded upon in Paul’s writings to the Corinthians.  It is certainly proper for a believer to want to return to God, according to how he or she has been prospered.  This is good stewardship.  This is proper worship.  This is submission to God’s sovereignty and Christ’s Lordship over one’s life; however, the Pharisees, like many people today, thought that was all that was required.  They thought that they could just “write the check” and consider their “debt” to God paid and they were free to live the rest of their lives however they wanted.

The problem Jesus brought up with the Pharisees, about this practice, is that the Christian life is not about some checklist of works to be performed in order to earn or remain in God’s good graces.  Ephesians 2 tells us that salvation is by grace, through faith, and not of works.  It is not about going to church, prayer, Bible study, baptism, confirmation, tithing, avoiding alcohol, obeying the government or how many people you lead to Christ.  All of these things may be an outworking of our faith, but they are not the means to it.

So, what IS important?  Simply what Jesus said the Pharisees lacked.  They had not had a change of heart, so they substituted other changes in its place and thought they should “count”.  Many of are like that about change in our lives.  We think we should just pray more.  Forget the fact that I have a hurt in my heart that I am not willing to forgive.  I just need to pray more.  Or I need to read the Bible more.  Forget that I have not stopped to figure out how to obey what I have read.  I am changing.  Isn’t that enough?  I need to invite more people to church.  That’s it.  That will take care of making me acceptable to God.  My pastor will be happy.  Forget the fact that I don’t serve or give to my church, if I invite people, I am giving my time.  That’s enough for God to be pleased, right?

Wrong.  Jesus wants us to do these things, but because we have been changed.  He wants us to WANT to spend time with Him because we are filled up with love for Him.  He wants us to WANT to pray because we are so committed to Him that we cannot go on without it.  He wants us to WANT tithe because we are so involved in what He is doing in our church that we see this as an extension of worship and as a natural part of gratitude from what we are so filled up with.  As He said, we should not neglect the heart for the hands, but neither should we neglect the hands for the heart.

Want to wreck your life?  Spend all your time changing things that don’t matter and you will run out of gas and all that effort will turn into a hypocrisy that drives you further from God than you started.  Instead, let’s draw near to God and simply change the things He directs and let’s stick with Him and it for the long haul.


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