Strain Out the Gnat and Swallow the Camel

August 25, 2015

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)

On multiple occasions, we hear Jesus tell the Pharisees that they are missing the forest for the trees. They are missing the big picture, caught up with the minutia of Mosaic Law to the detriment of “the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.” They are removing specs from the eyes of others, and leaving planks lodged in their own eyes.

When I was an assistant high school football coach long ago, I was in the coaches office when a heated debate broke out between the head coach and one of the other assistants. The argument was about some specific, tough-to-grasp technique that needed to be improved. The head coach was ranting about how it had to be done right, and that the technique needed to repeated over and over again until it was perfect. The assistant dismissed that solution as “ridiculous.”

Angrily, the head coach reminded the assistant, “We are coaching football! Don’t forget that!” To which the assistant replied, “No, we are coaching kids. We better not forget that.”

The head coach, in Jesus’ words, “swallowed the camel.”

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