9 Ways To Be Legalistic – Part 2 – Matthew 23:23-39

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 23:23-39 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Jesus continues his rant against the legalistic religious leaders.

 7. Major on Minor Issues 

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. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:23–24

Huge problems come when you focus on the minor rules and don’t focus on the most important things.

Jesus said that it is silly to worry about tithing every last piece of mint, dill and cumin when they are not worried about the things that really matter like justice, mercy and faithfulness.

He uses the illustration that they are like people who strain the tiny gnat out of a soup and then swallow a huge camel!

When we major on minor issues we often lose sight of what is really important.

8. Focus On Looking Good Externally

“For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

Legalistic people may look beautiful on the outside but they are dead on the inside, and it’s only a matter of time before others start to sniff them out for what they really are.

In vs 25-28,  Jesus really drives this point home that focusing on the outside does not change a dead heart. It’s like putting cloths on a mummy and pretending it is alive.

9. Pretend That You Are Better Than You Are

For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ ” Matthew 23:29–32

Jesus criticized them for erecting elaborate monuments to the prophets that their ancestors killed, for he predicted that they would be a part of killing Jesus and the his followers. He is criticizing the hypocrisy of pretending they are different than those that persecuted the prophets.

In this final section in vs 19-36, Jesus is warning them that they are about to follow in the footsteps of those who have persecuted the prophets.

Great sorrow and judgment is reserved for those who choose the path of legalism. I pray that those of us who are committed to Jesus would avoid it at all costs!

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About David Worcester

I am the founder and director of a campus ministry at San Diego State called Challenge. I am also serving as an ordained elder at Mission Trails Church. I love speaking and writing about college ministry, gospel appointments, and practical ways to live out God’s Word! I am also passionate about: leadership training, learning, missions, church planting, surfing, hiking, sports, photography and traveling (So far I’ve visited 23 countries & all 50 states). I’m married to Jessica Worcester who I fell in love with while doing college ministry together and we have a two year old son named Samuel. I graduated from from the University of Oklahoma (OU) with a degree in Film & Video Studies. And I received my Masters in Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary. I am an ordained minister who loves speaking and writing about practical ways to live out God’s Word in life and ministry.

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