“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!
(Mat 23:23-24 NET.)
Jesus lambasted the religious leaders of his day for making a big deal out things that don’t matter that much and ignoring that which is more important from God’s perspective. Imagine parents leaving their sick child at home alone so they could make it to a church service and deliver their tithe. There are lots of things to learn from this but for me it establishes one important reality: some things matter more than others.
If we want to move towards straining camels and swallowing a few gnats we need to know two things. What is important to use and what is important to God?
What is important to us?
Figuring out what is truly important to us isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we talk about things like they are really important but our actions reveal otherwise. I might talk about how important it is to care for the poor but if I’m not willing to give up my time or money to help a poor person then I don’t really care about the poor.
Jesus said our heart will be with our treasure (Luke 6:21). Therefore it is safe to say our treasure reveals where our heart is. What we invest our time, energy and resources in to will be what we care about the most. We can think about this in personal sense and corporate sense.
What is important to God?
How can we look at scripture and strain out the camels and perhaps let a few gnats get through? In my approach I prioritize the following:
- The strongest themes across multiple sources
- Anything the sources identified as important
- The clear sayings of Jesus
- The life and example of Jesus and to a lesser extent Paul
Of these sources I see Jesus as the highest authority. Jesus clarified many things that Moses had instructed. Jesus is the only perfect example we have. He is our best source of revelation. It is a bit frustrating trying to understand Jesus because he speaks in so many parables and metaphors and appears to overstate some points for effect. It is always a challenge translating two thousand year old concepts in to modern reality, it is every more confounding when the methods used confounded the original hearers.