“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
I used to volunteer with a Hospital Radio Station. It was great fun. I really enjoyed working with a friendly bunch of people, putting radio shows together, and presenting on the air. By the time I moved away from the area, I had my own regular show in which I was allowed to play pretty much whatever I wanted, and build my show just how I liked. I like to think that I was producing great quality radio, week after week after week. Of course, though, I fell into the trap that many hospital radio volunteers fell into. For me, my role was all about selecting the best records, choosing the best jingles, and devising the best features. Of course, though, I had missed the point. Hospital radio should not be about the volunteers, but about the patients. The really wonderful thing about hospital radio is visiting the sick, particularly those who otherwise would not get any visitors, chatting to them, trying to cheer them up, and playing the music that they loved.
In the verse singled out for today’s Daily Reading, Jesus is particularly scathing about the Pharisees. He believes that they have missed the point too. They are keen to be seen to be following even the tiniest of detail of the Law, yet they have missed the bigger picture. Being a good follower of God is not about the types and quantities of herbs you offer in sacrifice, it is about something much bigger. Following God is about loving justice. It’s about having a passion for fairness, for standing up for those who are being victimised, for supporting those who need to be cared for, for ensuring that no-one goes hungry. Perhaps most importantly it is about knowing, and displaying, the love of God. The Pharisees, though, were more concerned about themselves, and being seen to be holy, than they were about showing people God’s love.
The world we live in today is profoundly unfair. It can also be a very unloving place. As I get older, I become more and more aware of just how hard life can be. The words of Jesus today can be a warning to us too. Our Christian faith should not be about adhering to rules; rather, it is about knowing God’s love, loving God, loving our neighbour, and standing up for justice. Let’s try in the days and weeks ahead to really do our utmost to share God’s love with all those we encounter.