strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" (Mt 23:24)
used this proverb in His last sermon while rebuking the hypocritical
religion of His day which emphasized the externals and evaded the
essentials. Gnats were perhaps smallest among flies. The camel was the
largest land animal in Palestine and ritually unclean.
is seen terribly angry in the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew. He
pronounces "woe" atleast eight times. He addressed the religious
leaders as "hypocrites, blind guides and fools." Today's
Christianity is not much different from the Jewish religion of Christ's
day. We can only follow what our leaders preach and not what they practise
(Mt 23:3). The leaders are hard on people but soft on themselves (v4).
They wear special dresses for recognition (v5). They are after titles and
positions (vv 6-12). When the leaders stop growing in the things of God,
they would block the growth of the people also (v13). Preachers rob widows
and the suffering using their prayers (v14). Pastors are more anxious
about the numerical growth of their congregations than the spiritual
health of the members (v15). Rituals and traditions are more important
than realities and truth (vv 16-22). Pastors will be displeased with
believers who don't pay tithes, but they will not motivate them for social
work and charity (v23). And so on.
Jesus were here to preach in our Churches, I imagine He would say
something like this: "Woe to you hypocrites! You think that flash
photography and video-shooting inside the Church building will desecrate
it, but seek police protection for your committee meetings! ... Woe to you
hypocrites! You preach against wearing of jewels, but hoard money in banks
for three generations!..."
"touch-not...taste-not...handle-not" religion is alien to New
Testament Christianity (Col 2:21). Eventhough the Israelites had come out
of Egypt, Egypt had not come out of them. So it is with us. Christ has
delivered us from the Law and brought us into His glorious liberty through
His death (Gal 5:1). But we are still embracing legalism and living the
Old Testament life in the New Testament era. Legalism blinds us so much
that we cannot see even a big animal like camel! We would be living in
self-deception that we are so strict even about a matter so small as a
purity give me, more strength to o'ercome;
freedom from earth-stains, more longings for Home;
fit for the Kingdom, more used would I be,
blessed and holy, more, Saviour, like Thee!
(Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876, an associate of D.L. Moody)