Did you know that the most significant matters of the Mosaic law (even man’s law) are judgment, mercy and faith? Yes, this fact is substantiated in Matthew 23:23 by our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. In Matthew 23:23, we find Christ Jesus criticizing the scribes and Pharisees, who were the biblical conservative leaders of the Jewish people, for omitting the weightier matters of the law, which are judgment, mercy and faith. Again, this fact is substantiated in Matthew 23:23, where Christ Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
For your complete comprehension and understanding of Matthew 23:23, let us break said scripture down to its least common denominator, by translating from the original Greek text and it’s dictionary, because the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Here, Christ Jesus began his teaching with the word “Woe,” which is defined in the original Greek text as “a primary exclamation of grief.” This tells us that He was expressing His grief and disappointment in the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes were writers and town clerks (lawyers) in that day, and the Pharisees were an exclusively religious group known as separatists, who were also teachers of the law.
Christ Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites because they were very strict and precise in the small matters of the law, such as paying tithes of mint and anise and cumin, which are garden herbs, but omitted the weightier matters of the law, which are judgment, mercy and faith. When translated from the original Greek text, the word “omitted” means to forsake and to lay aside. You see, the scribes and Pharisees had forsaken and laid aside the weightier matters of the law. In essence, the scribes and Pharisees practiced hypocrisy, which means, having a pretense of virtue; or a failure to follow one’s own expressed principles.
The word “of” here in said text means proceeding or coming from the law, which tells us that these weightier matters are stated in the law. Remember, Christ Jesus told us in Matthew 5:17 that he came to fulfill (complete) the law and not to destroy the law. Now, the weightier matters of the law, according to the original Greek text, are the most weighty and more important matters because they are most expressive of inward holiness in the heart. In essence, Christ Jesus is telling us that these weightier matters trump the law itself in terms of importance.
Now, let us fully analyze these three weightier matters of the law. The first two of these are “judgment” and “mercy.” When translated from the original Greek text, the word “judgment” means justice, which is impartiality and fairness. And “mercy” when translated from the original Greek text means compassion, which is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. You see, God expects for us to show impartiality, fairness, compassion, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, especially for the poor and when judging others.
A perfect biblical example of the application of the first two weightier matters of the law is found in John 8:3-11, where the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Christ Jesus who was caught in the very act of adultery. Christ Jesus acquitted her because of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Christ Jesus acquitted her because the scribes and Pharisees did not apply the weightier matters of the law to the woman and her criminal act. That is to say, they did not show impartiality and fairness towards the woman. Also, they did not show her any mercy, which again is compassion and sympathetic pity, but they, like the rest of us, plead to God and others to show us mercy, compassion and sympathetic pity.
They did not accuse the man of adultery, but they brought the woman to Christ Jesus, hoping to entrap Him by getting Him to contradict the law of Moses in order for them to accuse Him of breaking the law of Moses, “but Christ Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground (dirt), as though he heard them not,” to signify to them how dirty and lowdown they were. In the midst of them trying to get Christ Jesus to contradict Moses, “he lifted up himself and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And they beginning with the eldest of them dropped their stones and walked away, “being convicted by their own conscience.” Christ Jesus told the woman to “go, and sin no more.”
Don’t be like the scribes and Pharisees
We must be very careful to not be like the scribes and Pharisees, who were partial (bias) in the law (Malachi 2:9). We must remember that God requires “mercy,” not sacrifice; Hosea 6:6 “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” God also requires us to practice justice, fairness, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God; Micah 6:8 “He has shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Zachariah 7:9-10, tells us how we must treat our fellow man in order for us not to be a hypocrite; “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother; And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger (foreigner), nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”
The last of the three weightier matters of the law is “faith.” When translated from the original Greek text “faith” means, moral conviction of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God and reliance upon Christ for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him (God).” To be saved we must have faith in Christ Jesus (God).
Christ Jesus tells us that the soul of the hypocrite will go to hell; Matthew 24:51 “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” By faith, this will not happen because we believe that our prayers for the hypocrites will cause them to repent and be saved.
Rev. Dr. O’Neal Dozier is pastor of The Worldwide Christian Center. Visit twwcc.org
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