S (Scripture) – Matthew 23:23-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.”
O (Observation) – Lord, I remember when I first read this passage many years ago. I was very involved in various aspects of church service as a teenager but didn’t know You or have any type of relationship with You. You were not Lord of my life back then. Instead of having the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the three and only members of the boardroom of my life, instead I was sitting at the head of that table calling all the shots based on what I thought was best. My outward appearance of church service gave the impression that I was a “good” Christian, but my heart was rotting from the inside out based on my inward turmoil. When I read this passage back then, it struck a nerve in me. You were talking to me in that moment, and I knew it. It was the first time I felt that You were calling me out for my hypocrisy. I was more concerned with how to properly serve at the altar and follow all of the appropriate steps for disposing of unused communion wine after a service than I was about how to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8).” I would teach and train others how to serve You in a church service by properly following the rules, but was so far from You in every possible way. These Pharisees were very much the same – they knew the Scriptures, they studied them, memorized them, taught them, even practiced most of them (e.g. tithing on every possible aspect of life, even spices), but completely missed You in the process. They were quick to point out the errors of others not properly following the letter of the Law (straining out the gnat), while being completely devoid of the Spirit of the Law.
A (Application) – I’m so thankful that I am not that person anymore. I look back and wonder how that could have ever been me, but I remember vividly what it was like to live only for myself. I remember how wonderful and awful it felt to be called out by You for what was going on in my heart. Acknowledging the sin we harbor is the first step toward repentance. When we realize how far we have strayed from You and finally see ourselves in Your light, life is so much more clear. You do not stutter, and you do not waver on Your standard of righteousness. Thankfully, that’s the whole reason You came for us – because You knew we wouldn’t be able to do it without You. You are with us every step of the way, and fully committed to redeeming our stories and purifying our hearts. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” May each of us pause – even in this moment – close our eyes, and listen to You as we ask the question…is there anything in our hearts that is displeasing to You, Lord?
P (Prayer) – Lord, I pray for my heart to never become dull, for my ears to always hear Your voice, for my eyes to always see Your path, and for a hunger for Your presence that can never get enough. May I never become calloused by this life and comfortable with a mediocre version of Christianity. I want more of You, Lord. I want Your unmistakable fingerprints throughout my day, I want Your Spirit to guide each step I take, and I want to experience Your favor and Your power as I go about doing Your work.