Ours is a pick and choose culture. Show us the menu and we’ll tell you what we want. Put before us our options and we’ll select those that best suit us. Give us an app and we’ll put in our order. But something I read in Luke this morning reminds me that’s not how the kingdom operates. While we might be naturally oriented to an “either/or” approach to life, Jesus reminded the religious of His day that the way of the kingdom of heaven is a “both/and” thing.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” ~ Jesus
(Luke 11:42 ESV)
The scribes and Pharisees can be a measuring stick against which we can feel good about ourselves, or they can be a mirror into which we look to be on guard against ourselves. These were the church-goers of the day. The faithful. The people who knew the book. The respected leaders in the religious community. In many ways they were us. So what happened?
Well, like I said, they were like us. People born with a sin nature which, apart from a supernatural transformation, have a propensity to walk in a way that seems right to a man (Prov 14:12) — even if that man is a religious man. And while we may have known such supernatural transformation through faith in Christ and the cross, we’re reminded again and again in the Scriptures that the old man is still around. That while we are born of the Spirit we are still in a battle against the flesh (Gal. 5:16-17). And the way of the flesh is pretty comfortable with a pick and choose culture. The old man will gravitate towards the “either/or” thing.
So, while the wealthy Pharisees of the day were meticulous in giving a tenth of all they reaped, even to most insignificant of things like their garden herbs, they were pretty lax when it came to giving attention to “the weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23) like justice and the love of God. For them, it seems, it was an “either/or” thing. We do this part of following God really well, so we’ll be less concerned about that part.
But Jesus says, do both. In effect, the kingdom is a “both/and” way of living. We do what’s easy for us, we do what’s not so easy. We excel in our comfort zone, we seek to be faithful outside of it. We’ll attend to lesser matters while not neglecting the weightier matters.
Jesus says, live in the ways of the kingdom — in all the ways of the kingdom. Remain faithful in the small stuff, but don’t lose sight of the big stuff. Be people who consistently practice the faith, but don’t neglect justice. Be people who give to God cheerfully, but don’t be lax about interacting with a lost world lovingly. ‘Cause it’s a “both/and” thing.
But it’s not an “in our own power” thing. It’s not a “by my might” thing. It’s a Spirit thing. A Jesus living in me thing. A supernatural transformation thing.
A grace thing. A for God’s glory thing.