Those of us who claim that Yahshua is our Master yearn to live as He desires. We study to show ourselves approved, reach out to those who are lost, pray for the sick, and freely give to the needy. Our lives, according to the world’s standards, seem upright and holy. But what does He truly desire from us? What are His standards? How do we know when He is well pleased with our walk?
There were those during the first century who attempted to live lives of purity and holiness. Over time however, their hearts became more focussed on the outward appearance rather than on the inward attitude. Today, this same group of people are scorned from the pulpit and ridiculed from the pew. The Pharisees could indeed use a new public relations agency. Try as they may, the standard that our Messiah was seeking was different than they were attaining. They had built their own little towers of Babel attempting to please God and man with their actions rather than their attitude. They missed the boat. They came up short. Yet today, many of the same people who malign the Pharisees suffer from the same attitudinal shortcomings.
When Yahshua addressed these gentlemen in Matthew 23 we see He began by telling His disciples that the Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat”. Thereby, He placed them in a great position of honor. He further instructed the people to do all that the Pharisee’s instructed them to do. So, here was our Messiah placing great authority and responsibility on the position that the Pharisees held. One problem though- that hypocrisy thing. Yahshua hates hypocrisy. Perhaps that is one reason why He led such a public ministry during His time on earth. Many people got to witness His actions at very close range. Day after day He walked among all the people from the rulers to the lepers. There indeed is no hypocrisy in Yahshua but the religious rulers of the day were filled with it.
But what was the cornerstone of the problem? Was it hypocrisy or misplaced priorities? Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, 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 (Mt 23:23). The “omission” is the problem. This word (aphiemi) can be defined further by substituting the words abandon, leave, disregard or keep no longer. So we see that they not only “omitted”, but disregarded or abandoned these “weightier matters”. To disregard or abandon implies that you are familiar with these “matters” and knowingly or unknowingly turn away from them. Yet at the same time they chose to continue in the paying of tithes down to the smallest detail. Perhaps that action brought them more public acclaim. Or maybe it was just easier. Our human flesh likes “easy”. The Pharisees were all too human.
Judgement, mercy and faith, the “weightier matters”, are much more private and therefore much more difficult to obey. These deal with your heart attitude. These are what Yahshua seeks in His followers. However, with these three you see one interesting point. They are not singular but rather linked to each other in a plurality of attitude. An echad [unity] of attitude if you will. Let us examine each one individually and then see how they are linked together and applied in the lives of His people today… right in their home.
According to Dr. James Trimm, who has completed an extensive reconstruction of the Book of Matthew from the DuTillet Hebrew version for his Semitic New Testament Project, these three “weightier matters” are the Hebrew words, mishpat, khesed, and emunah. Mishpat means judgement or justice. Khesed is defined as loving-kindness, mercy or grace. Emunah translates as the English concept of trusting faithfulness. Trimm further states, “The Hebrew word for weightiest is khomerim, the plural of khomer (heavy, strict). Khomer was a technical halachic term which Hillel used in the First Rule of Hillel. The first rule of Hillel is kol v’khomer (light and heavy). This concept in Judaism recognizes for example that some mitzvot (commandments) hold greater weight than others. This is important because at times two commandments conflict and we must determine which one has priority.”
Judgement is a word that is typically shied away from these days. Judge not, that ye be not judged (Mt.7:1). Who wants to “judge” when the tables will be turned one day? Furthermore, how can we properly “judge” when we no longer have any standards? When the foundation of Torah is removed how do we define sin? So you see when we talk about judging we are indeed in murky waters. Then why did our Messiah say that judgement was a “weightier matter” even to the point of putting judgement on a parallel with faith. We must consider the audience. Remember that the Pharisee’s sat in Moses’ seat. This was indeed a seat that involved judgement (remember the first set of tablets?). The Pharisees, like Moses, sat in a seat of authority. The audience in Matt. 7 are the disciples. They had no earthly authority. Furthermore, Yahshua was teaching His students in Matt. 7 about how to live as one of His followers with each other on this earth. They had no authority to judge, the Pharisees did.
What authority do you have? Where is your dominion? Perhaps it is at work or perhaps you are in a seat of authority somewhere else as an elder, pastor, teacher or some type of local official. In that role, judgement is to be exerted wisely. Decisions must be made and judgement must be used for each of those decisions. When you select one thing, you judge against all of the others. The wise judge is the one who selects the best from all of the good choices. Sometimes this even involves individuals. Those in positions of authority have to make judgements on people all the time. Again, the issue here is not do they judge, but rather how do they judge? For those of you who have been placed in such positions you will understand that judgement is indeed a “weightier matter”.
Judgement without mercy is legalism. It becomes condemnation and breeds an attitude of superiority. Merciful judgement is righteous judgement. Judgement without mercy is totalitarianism. The mercy of the Scriptures is one of clemency ultimately found in the merciful gift of eternal life that Yahshua’s death and resurrection provided for all who believe on Him. Mercy is not ignorance. Mercy is not allowance for wanton disobedience. Mercy is not a get out of jail free card for the very act that placed one in jail undoubtedly had some price for others. Mercy is the very essence of our Messiah. One who was merciful enough to sit and teach His disciples for long periods of time following the Torah teaching method, And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deut. 6:7). This type of teaching takes dedication, patience and love. These same qualities can be found in true Scriptural mercy. Mercy should never be taken for granted or abused. Mercy should be cherished. Mercy must be honored and just like judgement, mercy is not a solo act. To come to the place where mercy is needed one must first apply judgement otherwise there is no need for mercy. A prisoner has no use for clemency without first having received judgement. Judgement and mercy go hand in hand.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The third part of this equation is faith. For what good is our mercy without faith? Why make a merciful act if we do not have the faith that it will produce good fruit? Furthermore, why judge someone without the hope that the act of judgement will lead to true repentance. Your faith acts as the link between judgement and mercy. You cannot separate the three entities because they are dependent upon each other for their true fulfillment. We are all familiar with the verse “faith without works is dead”, the works here are indeed judgement and mercy. These are works of the Mighty One of Israel. YHWH issues the judgement, we see the merciful sacrifice of Yahshua and the thing that makes them both real to us is our faith. Just as the empowering element of the echad is the Ruach haKodesh [Holy Spirit]. Indeed in the “weightier matters” of judgement, mercy, and faith we can see a picture of the Father, Son and Spirit. Take one away and you diminish the other two for they are inseparable.
It is critical as we continue in our walk with Messiah that we keep the proper balance of these three important matters. Too often we see individuals or whole assemblies that tip the scales too heavily towards one of these matters. For instance, when one just looks at others with judgement they create a critical eye. Every little detail of the examinee’s life is put under a microscope in the name of “iron sharpening iron”. While discernment is important if you do not couple that judgmental attitude with mercy and faith you will never find anyone “good” enough for you to fellowship with. Then the assembly or individual crumbles from within. This is a cancer that unfortunately is alive and well in the Messianic movement today.
On the other end of the spectrum we see people who want to excuse everything in the name of mercy. Anything goes because we are to be “loving” and we do not want to be “judgmental”. Well, that is not true love that is ignorance. If you truly love someone you will mercifully approach them and attempt to help them. Not with a battering ram, but with merciful judgement and faith.
We who claim to walk in faith in our spirit, often have difficulty demonstrating faith in our flesh. Our faithfulness to our brothers and sisters is often sorely lacking. Typically, one thing or another will upset us and rather than demonstrating faith towards our brethren we issue judgement. We look at where they are now rather than where they will be later, after Messiah has completed His good work in them. This breaks up families, fellowships and hearts, even to the point of causing some to give it all up and run back to the “loving” world. Faithfulness should first be demonstrated in the Body of Messiah. For if we cannot be faithful to each other, how are we ever going to be faithful to Him?
In our homes we can see these three matters at work daily. The father of the family is typically the bearer of judgement, while mother is the merciful one. In this we see the male and female side of Yahweh right in our homes. Without both present, the home is out of balance. If the judgement and mercy do not work in harmony, the family is in chaos. Merciful judgement must be applied in every home or the fruit of the womb will be in dire trouble throughout their lives. But isn’t it our faith that allows us to continue? When things seem to stack up against us it is our faith that carries us through. If our children stray from the mark it is our faith that allows us to look at the good within them and hope for YHWH’s best for their lives. Many times as we raise our children, if we did not exercise our faith our hope would be diminished and our children ultimately lost. Yes, judgement, mercy, and faith are an integral part of any Scriptural home. The “weightier matters of Torah” are critical if we are to train up our children in the way they should go.
Whether it be in our homes, our assemblies, or our hearts, judgement, mercy and faith are ever present if we are to succeed. Lose sight of one of the three and you lose. No one ever walked out these three mattersbetter than Yahshua. We can never truly understand who He is until we understand these three matters fully. If we desire to walk as He walked, then we must work out our salvation under the covering of these “weightier matters”. These are where Torah begins and ends. These are what make the rest effective. Without these key ingredients, our search for knowledge and truth gets out of balance and we become Pharisaical. Without the proper balance, we swing back and forth from a jerky judgement to greasy grace. Our faith is in danger and our hope is diminished.
When we begin our relationship with Yahshua we typically have our scales out of balance. As we mature, our perspective changes and we begin to operate more effectively within the Body and as a witness to the world. Maturity brings balance. Or is it that balance brings maturity? Whatever the case, let us never loose sight of where we came from as we move forward. May we keep a proper perspective in our homes and in our congregations between judgement, mercy and faith. These are indeed the weightier matters. These are the matters that matter most. These are the keys to a believer’s effective walk. May you be blessed as you ponder your relationship with Him in light of these weightier matters.