“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate….” v. 4
You cannot build your relationship with God on technicalities and word games. The lives of the Pharisees were built around technicalities. They had devised a religious system that allowed them to do whatever they wanted, even dump their wives for someone else, and still feel righteous. Jesus tells them here that such games may work on earth but not in the kingdom of heaven. In this particular case it was about marriage and divorce. They had found a legal way to end an inconvenient marriage by writing a certificate of divorce, which by its implication would mark their ex wife as an adulteress, in the eyes of the community. The husband, then, could rationalize his way into another marriage if he wanted. Jesus calls the act of divorcing, so you can find another, or because you’re “just not happy”, adultery, certificate or no certificate. When they ran to Jesus waving their divorce papers, allowed by Moses centuries earlier, he said, “Because of your hardness of heart he (Moses) wrote you this commandment.” In other words, true faith is about the heart. You can wiggle your way into whatever you want, get all the paper work done, and still completely miss the will of God.
Religion is a funny thing. Ever since the Nazarene ascended into the clouds, people have been finding clever ways to avoid God’s will and appear to be doing it at the same time. We’re masters of technicalities. We’ve learned how to color code lies so we don’t have to be honest. We know how to stop the make out session just in time so we can use each other and still be virgins. And if all else fails we have a master plan to say, “Please forgive me for all my sins today”, as our head hits the pillow, just in case we die in our sleep. Even more insane is the idea that I can plan to have a deathbed conversion, after I’ve had all my fun. But even the technicalities can cause problems, can’t they? All sorts of questions come with a life filled with religious word games. Here’s a sample.
– Do I tithe my gross or net income?
– How far can you go before it’s considered sex?
– Is it adultery if I’m just flirting?
– Is_________ a curse word?
Whew! trying to dance around the will of God can be pretty exhausting. I wonder what would happen if we stopped playing games and really tried to live a life that honors God.
What would my life look like if I stopped seeing how close to the line I could come without sinning, and began to do what God actually wants. What if there was more to my faith than using God to get myself a place in heaven? What if I loved him, and not just what he can give me? If that happened I would be the kind of follower Jesus is calling for. He wants me to love him with my whole heart. When you truly love someone, you don’t spend all your time seeing what you can get away with, do you? I hope not. I hope you show your love by looking for ways to line up with the heart of the one you love, speak their love language, cherish them. This is what the follower of Jesus is called to do. But be careful, such a self abandoned life can have side effects. You just may find yourself…
…speaking the truth in love with no shades of white or grey.
…forgetting the tithing rule and giving sacrificially to help the least of these.
…treating your girlfriend like a princess instead of a prostitute.
…honoring your spouse in all your relationships.
…speaking unquestionable words that build others up.
…living a life free of tormenting technical questions.
…falling asleep in peace with no need to cover your bases just in case.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord ,Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. But him who does the will of my father.” (Matthew 7:21)