the heart of the Law
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 24
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. [Matthew 23:23]
The Jews often forgot the intent of the Law.
They saw it as a means to earn God’s approval.
They followed it to the letter, but not to the heart.
They neglected the weak, the poor, the needy.
They looked for loopholes and justified sin on technicalities.
They prided themselves on following the letter of the Law, but Jesus rebuked them for neglecting its intent.
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. [Deuteronomy 24:19]
This chapter in Deuteronomy (most of it) addresses justice and mercy.
Justice for those kidnapped, for those in debt, for workers and slaves.
Mercy for the recently married and for the poor, for the alien, fatherless and widows.
The purpose of these laws is to restrain evil AND to promote fairness and goodness.
The motivation for these commands is that the people of Israel knew what it was to be slaves.
And as we see above, God promises to bless them when they share their blessings.
All that we have, all that we are, is a gift from God, to be used to bless others.
The purpose of being ‘saved’ is not to get into heaven, but to be like heaven (on earth as it is in heaven), to be like God – good and kind and generous and merciful.
God is not looking for technical correctness, He is looking for justice and mercy from the heart.
These are the people that He loves to bless, because He knows they will share that blessing.
They will “leave” their blessings for the alien, the fatherless, the widow.
They will look for ways to treat people just as God treats them.
Blessed to be a blessing.
If as Jesus-followers we miss this, then we have missed the whole point.
Jesus carried His cross, then called us to carry it with Him; Jesus forgave us, then called us to forgive others.
Jesus freely gave to us, then called us to freely give to others.
This is the life that we are saved for, the point of all the Laws and spiritual practices.
Let us not neglect the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, faithfulness – while priding ourselves on our church attendance, donations to charity, knowledge of the bible, etc.
Lord, show us what really matters to You, and help us to do it!