Casting His Words Behind Us
It is sometimes hard to read the way the Pharisees completely missed the point of so much of the Old Testament. They were the ones entrusted with keeping it, yet they so often misunderstood or misused passages to justify wicked behavior.
When the Pharisees seek to trap Jesus into speaking about divorce in Matthew 19, they even go so far as to construe Moses’ words as commanding divorce. (Matthew 19:7) This, of course, flies in the face of so many other parts of scripture (Malachi 2:13-16) that it can only show a willful ignorance. However, I wonder sometimes if we are just as guilty of taking passages in the New Testament as tacit approval of our own sins. Are we not sometimes guilty of some of the same willful ignorance because we would rather have scriptural approval for our pet sins than change as God would have us?
When Paul talks about what we are to put away from us in Ephesians 4:31 he specifically names “anger” along with “bitterness and wrath” as well as “clamor and slander … along with all malice.” This might seem very clear, but there are some who would maintain that anger is still okay, because of a verse in the very same context. “Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26) Despite all of the scriptural commands to abandon anger (Galatians 5:20; James 1:19-20), some will claim they still have the right.
In a letter that repeatedly speaks of the fleshliness and arrogance of factions and cliques, some have defended engaging in that very same practice, because Paul said, “there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” (I Corinthians 11:19) The first three chapters of the book are literally all dedicated to decrying such actions, but some will seek to upend everything Paul said by taking one verse out of context. “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (I Corinthians 3:3) Let Paul’s words make impact in our hearts.
Despite the kind of graciousness, liberality, and kindness that we are encouraged to show toward the less-fortunate and poor, some have even found a way to weasel out of our responsibility to be generous. Perhaps you have even heard Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, or John 12:8 being used in such a manner. “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” A factual statement about the reality of physical existence is not an endorsement to maintain the status quo. John put it perhaps the most straightforwardly, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:17)
The question is really about God’s love and whether we truly have it in us. How do we show it in handling His word?