While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
A lot of times as Christians it is easy to focus on repairing the sins that make us look good, while ignoring the things that really matter. We go to church on Sunday, tithe, participate in a small group, listen to Christian music on the radio. But then we ignore the homeless man begging for money or food. We look the other way when the adoption agency comes to speak. We are too busy to build homes this weekend. When terrorism strikes we respond in fear and tell the refugees we are not welcome.
Our priorities are so mixed up.
It’s understandable though! It’s easy to switch to Christian music, but it’s hard to dedicate your rare free time to back-breaking work. Going to a small group and making new friends is fun, but learning to love someone you’ve been taught to fear is uncomfortable and scary. But I’ve found that the more difficult something is, the more it will be worth doing.
Jesus says that the whole of the law and the prophets can be summed up with the commands “Love God” and “Love your neighbor”. (Matthew 22:36-40) Making sure that our hearts are being loving and that our actions are being loving is the most important thing we can do. Like the Pharisees, we can’t afford to assume that just because we’ve always done or believed something, that means it must be true. We must constantly ask ourselves if we are acting in love. And when we see someone in need, as uncomfortable as it might make us, we cannot turn away.
Do you remember that Chick-Fil-A manager that everyone was obsessed with last week? When a homeless man came into his store he fed him and prayed with him, where most would have asked him to leave if he wasn’t going to buy anything. And we went on and on about this man, praising him for his actions! What a great Christian, we said! How can the atheists call us uncaring now? we asked. But when a homeless man is wandering outside around our Chick-Fil-A, what is our first response? If you’re anything like me, you probably look the other way. If you make eye contact, you’re sure to feel guilty, so don’t make eye contact. If he wants to eat he should work! we tell ourselves, to ease the guilt we feel anyway. Besides, there are soup kitchens, if he is really hungry he could go there. I’m too busy for this right now anyway, someone who is in less of a rush should handle him. And don’t try to tell me you’ve never thought at least one of those things before. Maybe it was a panhandler and you assumed he wanted money for drugs. Whatever the situation, God calls us to respond differently.
My husband and I used to live in the city. There were always panhandlers, and to be honest most of them were probably not homeless. One of them had a car, and some guy would always come pick her up at the end of the day. I saw it more than once. But others we spoke to and really were struggling just to get food each day. So we started keeping cans of food and bottles of water in our car. We handed them out indiscriminately. If they had a sign, they got a can and a bottle. More if they asked for it, but they usually didn’t. I’m not trying to parade myself as a saint (far from it as I always felt a little begrudging about giving them to the girl with the car), but just trying to make a suggestion of an easy way to help.