We have a small grandson, a recent addition to our extending family. He has the most expressive face I have seen in one so young (and yes, I do admit a certain loving bias might be creeping in to this analysis!). We have a picture on the wall from a sequence of pictures taken one afternoon. Our son’s expensive camera and “click click click click … take 100 and find the best frame later” approach. Except each “frame” is different … each expression is different … each “click” is a picture. And our picture is one picture with twelve different expressions. Gorgeous!!
“Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.” Matthew 23:23-26
Still a Jewish audience. Still a reluctant Chosen Person. Just another prophet to be added to the long list of prophets telling us God is pissed. Just another bunch of laws in the writing every time he opens his mouth (to add to the existing wallpaper of dos and don’ts that make being a Chosen Person so rewarding).
Because today I see tithing debated and argued over. And today I see justice and mercy and faith neglected in favour of building and property and finance in many meetings. Today I still see strainings of “gnats” and the swallowing of much greater “camels”.
And still today I see and hear … “Woah to you Paul, we are NOT Pharisees, we are NOT hypocrites! WE are clean on the outside AND the inside and “they” were not!”
Which I find a very “literal” response. And very defensive. And much like “straining out a gnat” (when the camel can still be heard digesting inside).
I see and hear accusations from those who tithe time and money – that they deserve more of a say in how things are done than those who don’t – that those who don’t tithe are a drain – that if they were committed Christians they would tithe.
I see the mint and dill and cumin of others envied.
I see those who don’t fit being encouraged to fit.
I see those with beautifully expressive souls being taught which expression to wear. How “worship and prayer” are done a certain way. How being an “immature Christian” (outflowing of love and the Holy Spirit) is too unpredictable and needs to be reigned back.
And the facial “soul expressions” become masks that do indeed mean that “by this they will know” WE are pious AND saved AND Chosen.
The Jesus I read about was sweaty and smelly and dirty and unkempt.
He wandered here and there. He popped into church but he also stood to one side and watched as much as got stuck in. Church might have been his “home” but not where he lived.
And Jesus has an expressive “soul” face.
So I guess today he would have been called “an immature Christian”. I think he would have been picked-up (nicely) for not tithing enough. I don’t think he would have volunteered for committees and do-good-groups as we are taught to volunteer.
AND the Jesus I read of never ever capitulated into wearing the expected “soul expression” – he never adopted a mask of pious righteousness.
So he would have been on our wall (right next to our grandson) with a different facial expression for every “click click” frame.
Which is why I am convinced that “we” remain teachers of the law much more than “we” ever will admit – and in that …
The Pharisees and teachers of the law are so much more honest.