Many people are familiar with the passage about judging other. Most people go to the words of Jesus recorded my Matthew. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:3-5) However a few chapters later, he covers the same point in a different, and more colorful way.
As He is blasting the Pharisees and Scribes and delivering the “Seven Woes”, he shares another word picture that means almost the same. “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matt 23:24) Can you picture it? Jesus is telling them that they are so busy with the tiniest of things (a gnat) that they miss the most glaring thing (the Messiah is talking to them). While the plank issue is about looking at other’s faults and overlooking your own, this statement is more about focusing on the minutia and missing the overall big picture.
Specifically in context, Jesus was pointing out how detailed they were in making sure their full tithe was right down to every little seasoning they produced. But while they were so focused on the minutia of the law, they neglected the real purpose of the law. The statement prior to the one about gnats and camels was “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matt 23:23)
Our God is a God of grace and mercy. Yes He requires justice and Holiness, but He knows in our fallen state, we cannot achieve either of those things perfectly. He knows we cannot possible live up to the Law but that is why He is a God of grace and mercy.
It’s easy to see these flaws lived out in our society but the truth is, these flaws are alive and well within our churches (just as the Pharisees and scribes were within the body of believers). People get all tied in knots about the style of worship, the version of the Bible, the order of service, the programs that are or aren’t supported, etc. These are all gnats. All their energy is geared to sifting out the gnats of the church that they sit there and swallow a camel in the mean time. They forget the purpose of the church.
Yes, worship is PART of why we go to church, but it is not the why. We go to church to be part of a body that exists for one purpose, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19) Making disciples is the big picture. Swallowing a camel means we’re missing the purpose and getting distracted with all of the gnats (the problems we see in the church).
It’s time we turn our attention to the WHY. Quit swallowing the camel. Remember our mission that Jesus Himself gave us. Make disciples.
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