The Weightier Provisions of the Law

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, 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. Matthew 23:23, NASB

There are many “hard sayings” of Jesus, sayings which we can easily say we believe but which, in practice, rarely show up in our lives. I think Matthew 23:23 is one of those hard sayings. I’ll admit that there is certainly “easy” things in the Christian life, and there are definitely “hard” things.

Defending the Deity of the Christ is an easy thing for me to do. Baptism, prayer, Bible study, are all easy. Not murdering, not stealing, etc., are easy things.

But why is three simple words can constitute the “weightier provisions” by which we are to live?




Love is just. Love is merciful. Love is faithful. God calls us to love. Love is the beginning and the end of anything God has ever asked of us. It is the “weightier provision” because it is where the emphasis is. Even if we do everything else, what does it matter if we have not love? Rather, we ought to love first and foremost, while not neglecting the other things.

But why is it so difficult to love? Why did the scribes and Pharisees get the priorities mixed up so much? Why do Christians nowadays–if they place any emphasis on anything spiritual–place the emphasis on church attendance or right beliefs or things of that nature? These things certainly are important, but the emphasis ought to pervade our lifestyle.

How much so should this love affect our lives?

Jesus, in another one of His hard sayings, laid it out for us plainly: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43,44, NASB).

Love your enemies. What an amazing thought. What a ginormous responsibility. And how vivid is the contrast between Christ’s simple yet monumental request with the actions of those who bear His name today!

So, what is this love? The word in Greek is agapaoÌ„, and it is the same word which shows up in 1 Corinthians 13 in Paul’s beautiful description of the love which Jesus spoke of:

  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind.
  • Love is not jealous.
  • Love does not brag.
  • Love is not arrogant.
  • Love does not act unbecomingly.
  • Love does not seek its own.
  • Love is not provoked.
  • Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.
  • Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
  • Love rejoices with the truth.
  • Love bears all things.
  • Love believes all things.
  • Love endures all things.
  • Love never fails.

List adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NASB

Can you see what a monumental task it then is to actually love your enemies? I’m astonished by it. This means that according to Jesus, prior to September 11, 2001, we should have loved someone even if they were involved with al Qaeda. And after September 11, 2001, the Spirit beckons us to not take into account a wrong suffered and not let our love be affected.

Love does not hold a grudge, nor is it provoked. What an amazing thing Paul teaches us:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:18-21, NASB

It is so easy to be kind to those who are kind to us, but when it comes to really practicing biblical love, how much farther have we to go!

I like Paul’s summary a lot: “Overcome evil with good.” How easily it is to take vengeance into our own hands. Country attacked? Revenge! Home broken into? Grap the shotgun! Cut off in traffic? Return the “favor”!

Revenge does nothing but make you a partaker of the sin. In going to war, governments send men off to become murderers in the sight of God, and Christians are overwhelmingly okay with it. What a mockery of Christ’s blessed name. If you do not love as Christ has called you to love and you claim to be a Christian, His name is taken in vain. We probably all have a long way to go. But may it be something we actively seek.

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