Mint and Dill and Cummin
mebrooks, December 13, 2003 3:00:00 AM GMT
by Michael E. Brooks
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" (Matt. 23:23).
What are our herbs? Do we have special "hang-ups" on certain must-do routines or rituals that matter a lot more to us than they may to God? Jesus recognizes that there is value in tithing, even to the minute level practiced by the Pharisees, yet he makes it plain that other things are much more important. His point is that we must major in majors, without neglecting the things of somewhat less significance. The lesson is very plain. But how often do we think to ask ourselves whether we have learned the lesson and are applying it in our own walk?
On my last trip to Bangladesh I was able to arrange for some more furnishings for the office at Khulna Bible College. The big item was a wall of bookshelves. Weeks were spent in purchasing and seasoning the lumber, planing and cutting it, then putting the shelves together, fitting them, and finally sanding and staining. Finally they were in place and books were at last shelved and available to students and staff. During this process I found myself frequently visiting the areas where the work was being done, checking on progress. Completion of the project was a cause of celebration.
Now, looking back I have to grin a little sheepishly and ask, "wasn't that a lot of fuss over just some shelves? They are just wood; they don't really matter." How true. Thankfully, all our time and attention was not devoted to the shelves. Classes were taught, human needs were served, and much preaching was done, resulting in almost ninety baptisms and the planting of three new churches.
There are two lessons in this. First, even things of secondary significance must be done. Bookshelves are needed. In our local congregations these "lesser matters" may include our buildings, our budgets, and the organization of programs and activities. Few organizations can exist or flourish without such. A program is not as important as human souls or even the physical needs of the poor and helpless, but that does not mean it cannot be of value. There is time and place for the lesser things.
The second and more important lesson is, however, that we must insure that these lesser matters don't interfere with what is truly important. Meeting budgets, acquiring or improving buildings, organizing programs, and many similar activities are necessary things in churches today. They should not be neglected. But they are not the main thing. Preaching the gospel to the lost, exalting God, and serving the unfortunate remain the primary missions of the church. It is so easy for us to become so engrossed in taking care of the everyday routines that we loose sight of the big picture. We forget what the real goal of all those activities is. When that happens we become like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day, and we should expect the same condemnation – "Woe unto you, Hypocrites!"
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