Week of Monday, June 28 – Sunday, July 4
Weightier Matters – Man as a Defender

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” — Matthew 23:23 ESV

In the Old West on the American frontier, vigilante justice was a common and largely accepted way of life. Self-appointed law-enforcement groups—posses—doggedly pursued and often applied lethal force to perceived lawbreakers, but justice wasn’t always served. In the famous Boothill Graveyard of Tombstone, Arizona, one grave marker reads, “Here lies George Johnson hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we was wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.”

Poor George Johnson’s epitaph might be just a tourist attraction, but it is a good reminder to us that innocent people can be robbed of justice. And that’s not something to be flippant about or shrug our shoulders and keep on walking. It matters.

The Pharisees, prominent religious leaders of Jesus’ day, were very good at shrugging their shoulders and continuing to maintain their own self-determined brand of righteousness. They kept a close watch on all their possessions to make sure that they could tithe down to the closest penny, literally counting out the very leaves on their spice plants. But while they meticulously kept the tithing laws, when it came to loving God and loving their neighbor, which Jesus proclaimed the previous chapter as the bottom line of God’s law, they were epic failures. They majored on the minors, keeping the parts of the law that were easy for them but neglected to keep the weightier or more important parts of the law. And Jesus called them hypocrites.

Jesus confronted those guys because they put themselves forward as spiritual leaders but had ignored the truly major requirements of God’s law, and they piously did it all in the name of religion. Men, we don’t have the luxury of majoring on the minors. God has called us to serve as defenders of vulnerable people whom He has created in His image. He has called us to pursue justice, offer mercy, and demonstrate faithfulness. We should not shrug our shoulders and walk on by, content that our obedience in following some of God’s easier commands is enough.

Look around. It is not hard to find injustice and oppression going on. People are being harassed, mistreated, and persecuted in our nation. Yes, it even happens to people of faith. Believe me, it is happening to some serious Christians who serve in the military, yet they are taking a stand, unwilling to be cowed by some of the nonsense being forced on them. Maybe it is happening to someone in your circle of relationships just because of their deeply-held biblical beliefs and convictions. They need someone to stand with them. Maybe that someone is you and me.

It makes a big difference when someone is willing to stand with you as a Defender. When I have been criticized for standing on a biblical principle, I wanted to see people standing with me and not behind me. I always get the: “Hey, I am with you Brother.” I want to respond: “No, you are behind me and there is a difference.” We all need a Defender from time to time, including me.

Consequently, we can’t just stick our heads in the Bible, hide out in our prayer closets, and send in our tithes and think we’ve checked all the boxes with God while injustice is going on under our noses and we could do something about it. No. He calls us to step up and be a Defender.

  • What does it mean to major on the minors? How have you been tempted to obey God in the “easy” things and neglect to honor Him in the harder, more important things?
  • Why is it sometimes easier to give God our tithe than it is to stand in defense of a neighbor who is being mistreated?
  • Again, look around. Where do you see injustice and oppression? How can you step in and serve as a Defender? Reminder: Before you do, remember poor George Johnson from the Old West and make doubly sure you have the facts straight! Ask God to give you discernment as to how you can best pursue justice, offer mercy, and demonstrate faithfulness to your neighbor in need as well as the courage to do it.