Don't Sweat the Mint and Rue?

Many label those who have extra-biblical personal standards as Pharisees. This Pharisaism, they continue, was denounced by Jesus. This legalism was condemned by Paul. The only truly holy way to live the Christian life is without any standards. Standards are a demonstration of weakness and spiritual immaturity.

Certainly, if people believe that they will be saved or "more saved" by certain practices or taboos, Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Nothing can make a believer more or less saved.

However, to say that Jesus condemned the Pharisees because of their rules is a false statement. Consider Luke 11:43: "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." According to some, Jesus ought not have uttered that last sentence. He should have said, "You should have paid attention to justice and the love of God and not worried about all those rules and regulations."

Why would Jesus have said this? The reason was that the Pharisees were obeying God's Law. They were doing what God had commanded. In fact, they were obeying God scrupulously. Remember Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:20). Jesus never condemned the Pharisees' righteous deeds and desire for holiness.

However, their zeal for the Law (Rom 10:1–3) eclipsed their love for God. They majored on the minors to the neglect of the majors. They "cleansed the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside [they were] full of greed and wickedness" (Luke 11:39). Jesus' answer to their wrong priorities was to set God as first and to obey him from the heart, motivating their scrupulous devotion to obedience.

Personal standards do not necessarily mean someone is a Pharisee. And Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for their rules; he condemned their neglect of God's justice and love. We must be careful not to compartmentalize our lives and be inconsistent in our obedience. As Paul said, we must "let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly" (Col 3:16).


Andy Rupert said…
Good on ya, mate. That's something that most people miss. It's not either be right on the outside or the inside; it's both.