Read Matthew 23:23-24
23 “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. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! (NLT)
Some years ago, the crew of a modern jet airliner concentrated all their considerable skill and experience on trying to figure out whether a light bulb in a certain instrument was faulty. As they tried to figure it out, they didn’t notice the aircraft was slowly descending into the ground. By the time they discovered that, it was too late and all were killed in the ensuing accident.
We can get focussed on little things whilst neglecting the more important things. Which is what Jesus is talking about in our passage today. The religious types of his day were very particular about the detailed rules of religious observance. But it seems they neglected the wider issues. Jesus is not rubbishing the rules; he is rather saying they are part of a much broader picture of faithful living.
These same Pharisees who diligently tithed their herbs were also those who wouldn’t mix with the lowly, who heaped condemnation on those caught in sin. Jesus calls them blind guides. It is particularly important for those in Christian leadership to be free of such petty legalism which masquerades as Christian commitment. It will give people a false idea of following Jesus.
We are to call people into a living relationship with Jesus, not conformity to a detailed text book. And it is out of that living relationship we discover the rules and are empowered to keep them.