Woeful Pharisees

Luke 11: 42-46
Gal 5: 18-25 / Psa 1

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
(Luke 11:42)

May we never judge others to be
Sinners, or we may be judged as well,
It’s best that we practice charity
To be sure we don’t end up in hell.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.” One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”
(Luke 11:42-46)

Reflection

The Pharisees represented everything that was repulsive to our Lord, Who knew all of their thoughts and attitudes. They gave God “a tenth of (their) mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but (they) neglect justice and the love of God.” They were so meticulous in observing their man-made laws (like tithing even their garden herbs!) that they had neglected their more important role of shepherding the Jewish people in the righteousness and mercy of God. The Jews had gone astray from the laws of God because of their example.

This “elite” religious group and the scholars of the law who supported them regarded their own station so exalted that they expected to be seated in the most prominent places in the synagogue, and the people to pay them homage wherever they went. They set themselves apart and above the rest because they believed in their own righteousness, as against the sinfulness of others. Jesus gave an illustration of their despicable pride in His parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee prayed to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous, or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11). His self-righteous prayer could only be an abomination to God. In fact, Jesus turned the table on their obnoxious standard for cleanliness or “purification” by comparing them to “unmarked graves, which men walked over without knowing it.” Graves were considered unclean by the Jews, and unknowingly walking over them defiled them without their knowledge. In the same way, the Jews were innocently being contaminated by the bad example and teachings of the Pharisees and scribes. The scribes or scholars of the law did not escape the Lord’s condemnation. Their laws and statutes had become too burdensome for the people to follow, but they did not practice what they preached. The laws that they crafted only served to distract the Jewish people from observing the laws of God handed down to Moses, and to trust in God’s merciful gift (grace) of salvation.

Without realizing it, many of us in the renewal may be in danger of becoming “pharisaical” if we start believing that our good works have ensured our passage to heaven, or that people who are not members of any religious community may forfeit God’s grace of salvation. We can never be the judge of our spiritual standing in the eyes of God, nor the status of other people in their relationship with their Maker. We can only thank God that through the great sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed from our sins in His mercy.

Dear God, please remind us always that we can never do anything to merit Your gift of salvation; that we must always abide by all Your commandments, so that we will not lose this grace that is available to us through the love and passion of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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