Thoughts for the Day

Tuesday, 29th August 2023: Pharisees today

Scribes Pharisees Faith Love Teaching Matthew 23 Jesus Mission

Reading : Verses from Matthew, Chapter 23

Jesus and the Pharisees

Jesus said, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised 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.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


If your picture is of a "Jesus, meek and mild", then think again. Jesus, does not hold back his words about the way the Scribes and Pharisees concern themselves with tiny nuances of the Law, so that a donkey can saved when it falls into a well on the Sabbath, but a man or woman cannot be healed on the Sabbath, for that is considered work!

The Law dictated that all were expected to pay a 10% tithe of produce from their land to God. This helped the Levites who did not own land, but who ran the Temple and worship. Jesus points out that the Pharisees are meticulous in doing this even with a few herbs grown for the kitchen. But they ignore the weightier matters of the Law about offering mercy and justice to others. He even questions their faith in God. It's as though they keep their eyes on the ground to look for money and miss the beauty of the sunset above.

Jesus then continues by looking at the Laws on cleanliness were hugely complicated. A man or woman became ritually unclean and unable to worship God if they touched anything deemed to be unclean. Put simply, to touch a sick person made a person unclean, if they then touched a cup it made that unclean, which made anyone else who touched the cup unclean etc. Concerned over such minutiae meant the larger issues were not questioned. A man might have stolen the cup and the wine, but as long as he observed the correct procedure over washing then all was well.

Today, our Lord calls us to clean ourselves - our hearts and minds! To get back to basics - we are to love God and our neighbour. When we spend hours in church meetings arguing about whether to have pews or chairs, or which hymn book to use, rather than mission work and teaching, we should question, are we any better than the Pharisees?


Lord Jesus Christ,
help us to look at all that
we think, do and say,
in the light of Your two commandments
to love God and to love our neighbour.
May we not be distracted
by unimportant things
when issues of faith, mercy and justice
are ignored,
but keep our eyes on Your concerns.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might want to law about tithing from the Hebrew scriptures;

Or this about Scribes:

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