Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

"Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." Matthew 23:24
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It seems that lately the sad is often followed by the silly. What I mean by that is it seems we are greeted every day by the sad news of horrible acts of sin and violence, not just around the world, but now in our own back yards. But to me what adds insult to injury is when that sad news is followed by silly comments or actions of people in response to that. 
Ok, case in point. We all have been hearing lots of sad, sad news about people being killed by gun violence. Whether it's on the streets of our inner city neighborhoods or in the classrooms of our neighborhood schools. It is heart-breaking that it now seems to happen so often, we don't even have time to be shocked by it any more. But then, I hear a report on the news yesterday that some school somewhere in this country, suspended a boy for having the picture of a gun on his computer. Let me repeat, the PICTURE of a gun on his computer. Don't get me wrong, I know that school officials have to be serious about the matter of protecting our children while in their care, but to me that is just silly. And when I heard that, I thought of something that Jesus said.

After Jesus returned to Jerusalem in preparation for the time to give His life on the cross, He took the occasion to teach His disciples and others who followed on a number of different topics. He spent a great deal of that teaching time speaking about the scribes and Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the time. Most of them were against Jesus, and in fact hated Him for all the "trouble" He was stirring up. Of all the things our Lord said about them...like their devotion to tradition and not to God; their concern more about appearing righteous rather than being righteous; their misguided belief that the temple was more important than our God that it represented...of all those things He said about them, the one that jumped out at me the most was when He said "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel". That is a powerful statement in such few words.

Do you get the analogy? The thought is like if you're going to drink something, and you see a tiny gnat in the glass. You don't want to drink a gnat, so you strain it out. Yet, there is a camel in that same glass, and you ignore that and swallow it any way. He was telling them that they worried about the little things that in the scheme of the bigger picture didn't matter as much. Yet the bigger things that should matter more, they ignored. The Pharisees worried about things like did you tithe the exact tenth on the altar...when you came to the temple to worship, did you follow the right protocol...did you make sure when you were in public you appeared to be the right person by not associating with the wrong people. Things like that. And Jesus was trying to tell them that they spent too much of their time majoring on the minors.

I see a lot of that in us as a nation. We have these huge problems that are eating away at our families and our communities and at our very way of life. Yet we are being distracted by straining out gnats all the while we're choking on camels. We suspend a kid for having a picture of a gun, yet we spend billions of dollars on violent video games for our children. We spend more and more on building prisons to house our criminals but spend less and less on educating our kids. We worry about whether people are wearing the right things to be worthy of sitting in our churches, while there are well dressed church members who are far away from God. We spend lifetimes seeking God through religion, when all His Son Jesus wants is a relationship. 

I don't know about you, but I am tired of the taste of camel. And my prayer is that God will help me to focus on Him, get my priorities straight, and (to borrow a phrase from Steven Covey) to teach people through the Word of God how to keep the main thing the main thing.

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