*NOTE* All scripture passages are from The Scriptures 1998 unless otherwise noted.
Blind guides – straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are filled with plunder and unrighteousness. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside of them becomes clean too. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly indeed look well, but inside are filled with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you too outwardly indeed appear righteous to men, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:24-28
Life is about focus, where we set our gaze. If we are focused on the external or on others most of the time, we have little or no time to focus on ourselves and cleanse the inside of the cup. Those who are busy pointing the finger and examining others deceive themselves.
Constructive criticism is good sometimes, but if we are busy seeing the flaws of others constantly, we may be guilty of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Which basically means, we criticize what others do all the while doing as we please and defending ourselves in what we do. This is one of the greatest deceptions among people who cannot see themselves. Usually those with a critical spirit fall into this.
The religious leaders in the time of Yeshia seemed impressive to the common people, even put on airs about it, but they are even more impressive to themselves. By their prideful behavior, they say, ‘Whoa! Look how big my phylactery is!’ or ‘Whoa! I am so special I deserve to sit in the best seat in the house!’, or ‘Whoa! You can just call me Teacher!’ People today sometimes are no different, especially if they have a lot of ego or pride.
What is the issue here? It is legalism; they were observing the details of religion but were blind to the big picture. As an example, Yeshua points to their meticulous attention to tithing—right down to their spices. Now there is nothing wrong with being meticulous in religious practices unless you hurt others or demand that they follow your example; but this is what the religious leaders did!
Let us not strain out gnats and swallow camels. Our faith should change our own hearts, but it must also move out into the community and bring mercy, justice, and love to the entire world.
To memorably emphasize the point that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were doing this, Yeshua said that they were straining out a gnat (as one would do if there were a gnat in something that one was about to drink, even though the gnat would do little if any harm), but then being as willfully oblivious as if they were swallowing a camel to the way in which they themselves were violating or ignoring the intent of the Law, which would be fatal to them spiritually just as surely as swallowing a camel would be fatal to a person physically.
This can also be used to show a person who nit picks and criticizes another person on many things but the moment they themselves are corrected they resist and defend themselves, allowing anything they want in their own life.
Elohim desires mercy not sacrifice. He requires of us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our Elohim.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you tithe the mint and the anise and the cumin,1 and have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah: the right-ruling and the compassion and the belief. These need to have been done, without neglecting the others. Footnote:1The wording in Lk. 11:42 is somewhat different. Blind guides – straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are filled with plunder and unrighteousness. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside of them becomes clean too. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly indeed look well, but inside are filled with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Matthew 23:23-27
Messiah is chastising these leaders for being more interested in the kinds of things that show on the outside than on what is really happening on the inside. He goes on to liken them to whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but are rotten inside.
But while this is directed at the religious leaders of the day, it also is a challenge for us to consider ourselves. What about us? Are we more concerned with how we appear to those around us than on what is really happening inside? Are we more concerned with looking perfect than we are with having a right relationship with the Lord? I love the way that Yeshua is able to cut right to the core of who we are and get us to take a hard look at ourselves. That is what light does. It shines into the dark recesses of the soul and makes us aware of the things within us that need to change.
But sometimes in order for us to change, we need to be willing to allow our beautiful facade to be stripped away. We need to be willing to allow others to see the rotten garbage underneath as we start to really deal with the garbage in our lives and start focusing on the camels in our lives instead of the gnats.