“‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.'” (Matt. 23;23)
What is it about us that upon receiving the mercy of God, we Christians want to right the world? And in doing so, we retreat back to the law to do the work. But wasn’t it the law that led us to mercy to begin with?
(I suppose as long as we realize what we’re doing…)
More than once, Jesus reprimanded the teachers of the law about righting the world. Referring to the accounting of spices given in tithes, he said don’t give up balancing the books. But, there are weightier matters—he named three: justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). Of course tithing is a matter of justice—they were good at managing that, and to a fault (i.e. hypocrisy). But mercy and faithfulness, not so much.
“You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former,” Jesus told them. Tall order for the weak by nature. But the biblical hope is about the strength of God, not the weakness of men. And it’s his justice, his mercy and his faithfulness that are the essentials of the Law.
This is akin to another time Jesus said to the same people, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'” (Matt. 9:13)
The verse is from Hosea 6:6—the rest being, “and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Same pattern: Justice (the accounting system of sacrifices and burnt offerings), mercy, and faithfulness (acknowledgment of God). But this is more the viewpoint of those practicing the sacrificial rituals.
Notice that mercy and acknowledgment of God take precedent over justice. Not the other way around.
Then were the priests to “practice” the mercy of the God? And was God the one tasked to make the world right?
This would take some faith.
‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matt. 9:13)