Week 3, Part1: Lessons From the Pharisees Cont’d
Day 2: For Viewing Purposes Only Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-54; 18:9-14; Isaiah 58:7; Daniel 4:27
It’s somewhat easy to make light of the Pharisees’ displeasure with the disciples’ dirty hands, but in reality it was an incredibly serious matter. Their attention to the outward condition of men revealed a dangerous neglect of the inward condition.
In Luke 11:37-54 we find that the disciples were not the only ones who were eating without washing their hands. Can you imagine the look on a certain Pharisee’s face when Jesus came to his house for dinner and didn’t wash his hands before eating! The Bible doesn’t tell us what the Pharisee said, if anything, but it does tell us how Jesus approached the situation. He didn’t mince words.
“Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have: and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you Pharisees! For ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.” (Luke 11:39-42)
Interestingly, the parallel passage in Matthew 23 lists not only judgment but also mercy and faith among the things the Pharisees ought to be doing. The word translated “mercy” is the same Greek word that is here translated as alms. It is very significant that all through the Old Testament, the word alms was never used. Could that be because the tithe was to be used to provide for the Levite, the orphan, the stranger and the widow?
Care of the fatherless, the widow and the stranger was intended to be a reminder that God had redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt, a picture of the redemption from sin that would later be found in Christ. (Click here for more on the tithe and the fatherless.) Here, we see that the tithe and provision for the poor seem to be separate. It now appears to be the giving of alms that provides for their needs. Does this mean that God has changed the way He wants things done? No. Don’t forget, we are dealing with a generation that has applied their traditions to the law in such a way as to even break the law by the traditions.
It seems that both the tithe and the alms had become yet another mark of spirituality for the Pharisees, just like washing the cups. It is an outward sign that they are “walking uprightly” when in reality they are doing it to be seen of men. Jesus warned against this in Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
Jesus gives a very clear illustration of what is going on in Luke 18:10-14, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
God’s desire is not that we give tithes and offerings in order to appease Him or prove ourselves worthy of Him – we are unworthy. His desire is not that we do these things in order to carry out a tradition. He desires sincerity and truth. In fact, there are several things that we have listed already which he desires to see in us, but we will get to that in moment. First, two Old Testament passages need to be brought back into the discussion because, once again, we see the same attitudes that led to the captivity prevalent in the lives of the Pharisees.
We have already discussed Isaiah 58 both in the Old Testament portion of this study and the New Testament (Here and Here), so we won’t go into great detail. Basically, God laid out the manner of fasts that the people were practicing and said, Is this what I required of you? Then He reminded them of the true fast that He desired: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6,7
Then in Malachi 3:7-17 we have a reminder of the importance of the tithe and how Israel was robbing God by not paying the tithe. Here in the New Testament, as we’ve already said, it seems tithe is being paid, but not applied to the right things, nor given in the right manner. (See this blog for more info on Malachi 3.)
Between the passage in Matthew and the passage in Luke, Jesus lists four things that the Pharisees had neglected, things which God desires to see in our lives in this area. The story of the Pharisee and the Publican adds a fifth item to the list. They are:
2. The love of God
That little list pretty well sums up God’s perspective on this issue and the issue of the fatherless, the widow and the stranger throughout the Old Testament. The Pharisees were still missing the mark.
It would be really easy to criticize them, but all of us are missing the mark in some way or another. Just as each of these five things somehow ties back into Malachi 6:6-8, so does another passage, which nearly got missed as I was studying. Hebrews 10, tells us of the insufficiency of the sacrificial system. The things listed here are truly the things that God desires as fruit in our lives, but there was something much greater that was needed to cover our sins. We needed true redemption, and that could only be purchased by the death of Jesus Christ.
Salvation is not of works. As I have said over and over, we do not care for the fatherless, the widow and the stranger to earn our salvation. It is important that our labor of love among them remain just that, and that it does not morph into a washing of cups and tables and a paying of tithe that is for viewing purposes only. It is to remind us, that our work was insufficient, our sacrifices never good enough, our oppression was as deep as their oppression. It is to remind us of the beauty of His sacrifice. To remind us that we have been set free, and that they too can know the salvation that is in Christ.
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption