My son plays junior high football. (If you’re not a fan or know nothing about football, stay with me.) Saturday evening his team was evenly matched and found itself in a tight, back-and-forth contest. On the last play of the first half, the opposing team had the ball and went for one desperate play to try and score before halftime. The quarterback ran around like crazy, trying to avoid being tackled, looking for someone he could throw the ball to. He threw it, but the receiver was quickly tackled and the half ended.
Most of the spectators on our side were pretty sure it was an illegal pass. (I’ll refrain from burdening you with the details of how and why.) The coach went out to talk to the referee about the missed call. The referee assured the coach that he had his eye on the quarterback the whole play, and the pass was legal. The coach however, said, “But you missed the whole offensive line breaking downfield.” (Which means a whole bunch of players who aren’t allowed to catch the ball were out of position trying to do just that.)
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had a similar problem. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” Matthew 23:23.
They were totally dialed into the minutiae of keeping the Mosaic Law (some might argue going overboard) while far more important and obvious things were overlooked– justice and mercy in their dealings with each other and faithfulness to God.
Unfortunately, we are not as different from those guys as we would like to believe. We have a tendency to fixate on small fringe details – the latest scandal out of Hollywood, a social or political cause, church structure and politics and so forth, and we miss the more important things. I can’t help but envision a day when we’re trying to explain to God how we never watched those kinds of movies, and we never voted for any of those candidates, and we never supported those companies. We had Bible covers and bumper stickers. We went to conferences and served on committees. I’m afraid He will look at us and say, “But you missed these people. You didn’t show them mercy or deal with them justly. You didn’t tell them how desperately I wanted them here with Me, and how I paid the price to make that possible.”
And we miss the obvious. When I say we, I mostly mean me.