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. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
The weightier matters were judgment, mercy, and faith. These were the things that should have had more emphasis. It wasn’t really supposed to be about cutting up their herbs to give a portion of them, but it was about those bigger principles to be followed. God operates as both a just God and a merciful God. His purpose is to produce people who are both just and merciful, and that is a matter of trusting and believing God.
The Pharisees thought to gain favor by focusing down to these smallest things, but in the process of that, they lost sight of what following the law was supposed to be about in the first place—living righteously in obedience to God’s way. The tithe was an aspect of obedience, but Jesus knew their hearts, not just what those outward appearances represented. And inside, He saw them for who they were, void of the important things He would have rather seen in them.
It was a pattern in Israel to go through the motions of sacrifices and yet have hearts that were far from God. But God wants people who will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Better than these kinds of religious rituals is demonstrating the character of God, showing mercy, doing what is just and right. But they were so focused on themselves that they paid little attention to God or the people around them, who they could have served and blessed.
But what about us? Are we getting tripped up by something small and losing our focus on something more important? Are we going through the motions of duty but leaving something else undone? There are weightier matters to attend to. Following God is not a game, but serious business. Are we cultivating mercy toward those around us? Are we being just in all that we do according to God’s standards? Are we living lives of faith that demonstrate our love for God and our desire to honor Him?