What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.
Wow – this is one of the passages where Jesus comes across real strong!
The Jewish leaders were generally looked up to because they had high standards in obeying the minutiae of religious law. We can smile as they harvest the mint or coriander from their gardens – ‘Nine leaves for me and one for God, nine seeds for me and one for God.’ They were committed to getting it right where the law was concerned, but look at what they were missing in the process. Justice, mercy, and faith had a bearing on relationships and all was not well in that area of life. What on earth is the point of tithing your herbs when you don’t love and welcome people?
It is easier on the whole to obey certain laws than it is to love people.
It is this fundamental issue that Jesus is on about, and it explains why he comes out so strongly to denounce the hypocrisy of these Pharisees.
It is perhaps worth noticing however that Jesus goes on to say ‘You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. ‘Love does not free us from the obligations of obedience to God in other areas of life, but it does lead us to getting the right priorities in terms of relationships with others.