Question: Would you explain what Jesus meant in Matthew 23:23 when He said “These ought you to have done.”?

Answer: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

The context here finds Jesus disapproving of the scribes and Pharisees faith and obedience to the Law of Moses (vs 2-12). He expresses His disappointment by pronouncing eight “woes” upon them (vs 13-36). In v 23 Jesus declared the fifth woe and pinpointed “weightier matters of the law” that were being left undone in their daily lives. The advantage and upside of this verse is that we today can learn some very valuable lessons from it. So, let’s see what we can gather from it.

That Jesus did not condemn the scribes and Pharisees for tithing, because tithing is a part of and according to the Law of Moses, the law they were living under (Deuteronomy 14:22). The lesson is; Jesus does not and will never object to us doing that which is required of us by the Father.

In verse 23 Jesus points out, not in judgment but for their benefit, other relevant matters of the Law of Moses that they were not keeping; “judgment, mercy, and faith.” Judgment is that of making the right decision coupled with justice. Mercy is that of being considerate of …. Faith is that of listening to God coupled with conviction and compelled to honor His desire with our lives. These things have always been a requirement of God to His creation. The lesson of Jesus is; if you want to please the Father don’t keep just part of the Law, keep it all!

Digging a little deeper into this principle, James tells us in chapter 2:10 that it is not good enough to keep part of the Law, but we are to keep it all. Here is the lesson; any part of the Law is a unit (component or element) of the Law therefore any failure to recognize a part is then a total failure of all on our part. In other words, not keeping one part makes us guilty of all because they all were given by one authority.

Matthew 23:5-7 establishes the problem that Jesus was dealing with in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees — “to be seen of men; love the uppermost rooms and chief seats; and to be called Rabbi.” Could this still be a religious problem today? Are there times when we do or say things just to be seen and heard of others? Is it possible that sometimes we covet a superior position among others? Do we at times assume a “title” in an effort to gain dignity and respect within our society? Does any of this sound like just being a servant? See Matthew 23:11 and let Jesus tell you what pleases the Father!

Let us notice that Jesus was not dissatisfied in them because they were keeping the Law of Moses; simply because the new law of the gospel was yet, at that time to be established (Acts 13:39).

In conclusion and last but not least, the lesson learned is that: “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

True repentance begins in the heart and ends with a reformation of life!

Do you have a Bible question or comment you would like to have answered? Please call Marshall Stubblefield at 423-272-2404.