“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God,” Philippians 1:9-11.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus used a striking expression: “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” (Another rendering is “strain out a gnat”). The scribes and Pharisees were very careful to strain small impurities out of their wine, but Jesus said they ignored much greater contaminants. The Pharisees also gave tithes of minor garden products to make themselves look good, but they neglected major virtues like justice, mercy, and faith. Are we doing something similar? Do we give great attention to small things while missing something much more important?
We may be blind to hidden motives in our heart, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. We can give a good Christian impression while lacking godly love. How foolish it is to wash the outside till it sparkles but leave the inside full of crud! If we allow Jesus to cleanse the inside (our heart), the outside will become clean also. But often self doesn’t want a change of heart and just wants to focus on looking good.
The gnat and camel remind us of the mote and beam that Jesus mentioned. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” Matthew 7:3-5. Sometimes we notice small things in other people’s lives and try to deal with them—while having a beam in our own eye or swallowing a camel. We need to examine ourselves and ask the Lord to cleanse us from the inside out. God is more interested in our heart than we can realize.
May we echo David’s prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” Psalm 139:23-24.