Majoring on the Minors

August 2, 2019 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Hypocrisy & Grace

Topic: Christian Living Scripture: Matthew 23:23–24

Home Group Study - Sermon Date: 02 August 2019

Text: Matthew 23:23-24

Opening Discussion: Mint, dill and cumin were common garden variety herbs that the Israelites were very familiar with. These were easily available and regularly used in their cooking. What are the most common spices you use for cooking? Has there ever been an occasion where you have been heavy handed in the use of a particular spice? Share your story.


The Pharisees attached very little concern on that which was most important and much focus on that which was least important. They were meticulous about those things that were debatable but careless about those things that were central and obvious. They paid thorough attention to external details while ignoring God’s priority of a godly internal character. Perhaps we could say that they were more concerned about being right than being righteous.   

The Lord condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their eagerness to pay tithe of mint and dill and cumin even as they “neglected the weightier matters of the law.” The Pharisees put on a show for everyone, tithing the minimum of 10% even on unnecessary spices, but neglected the more important matters: justice, mercy, faithfulness.

Jesus finishes this section with an illustration of a gnat and a camel. Both of these creatures were considered unclean. The Pharisees wanted to make sure that they did not violate the Law by eating an unclean animal. The Lord uses exaggeration to paint a wonderful, hyperbolic picture of a Pharisee straining out a gnat, whilst the hoof of a camel is sticking out the corner of his mouth. They were blind and irrational, straining out gnats but swallowing camels. Their priorities were all mixed up! They paid their tithe of mint and dill and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God. They completely missed it all! Jesus calls the Pharisees “blind guides”, because they were leading people away from the only way, truth and hope which ultimately prevented people from (the most important things of all ), coming to a personal relationship with the living God.

Investigation & Interpretation:

  • Read: Matthew 23:23-24
  1. What similarities are there in Micah 6:6-7 and Matthew 23:23-24?
  2. Jesus specifically mentioned in v.23 that Pharisees "tithed mint and dill and cumin". Why was this considered legalistic? (cf.  27:30-33; Deut. 14:22-29)
  3. The heart of New Testament giving is not found in a percentage. What does the N.T. teach about giving? (cf. 2 Cor. 8-9)
  4. Jesus used the example of a camel to illustrate exaggeration in v.24. Read the following verses to see how often Jesus used camels in His overstatements (cf.  19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25).

Application - How must I change?

  •  Is there a Truth to be believed?

In Matthew 5 Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Jesus also said in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. Why then is legalism such a bad thing?

  •  Is there an Attitude to be fostered?

Substituting ideology for discipleship is neglecting the weightier matters. This is understandable enough in the virtual information age where people become more passionate about social media than they are about incarnate people who interact with each other in the flesh. In what specific ways can we focus on ideology while neglecting discipleship?

  •  Is there a Behavior to be changed?

Unfortunately it is easy to get our priorities upside down. We can do all the external things for Christ but yet, internally justice, mercy, and faithfulness is neglected. Focusing on the formalities and trivial religious things rather than a true relationship with the living God, can become our default mode. What are some of these external, trivial things that you have struggled with and how have you overcome them


Our Lord has demonstrated clearly that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is of a different (and inferior) kind, than that which He offers, and which God requires to enter into His heaven. The righteousness we need to be made right with God can never be produced by human effort—only by the spirit of God living out the life of Jesus Christ in the true believer. 

The Gospel of John contains a wonderful testimony of a Pharisee who by the grace of God was different than those Jesus confronted in Matthew 23. In John 19:38-39 we have the account of two men, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, the Pharisee. These men came to take down the body of Jesus to give Him a respectful burial. Joseph of Arimathea in fact supplied the tomb, his own. It is interesting that Nicodemus was considered as the teacher in Israel (John 3:9). He knew the law of God, very well. He knew that under the Mosaic law that anyone touching a dead body would be considered, ‘unclean’ (Numbers 19:16). The Passover Feast was at hand, and so Nicodemus understood if he touched the dead body of Jesus, he would be excluded from the temple. As a rabbi, the right thing for him to do would be to stay away from Christ’s body. But he also knew the righteous thing to do. Therefore, he honoured the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need the commitment of Nicodemus: commitment to righteousness over ‘rightness’.


Prayer Points:  

  1. Pray we would be people of spiritual integrity and keep our promises.
  2. Pray we would major on the majors and not neglect the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
  3. Pray we would love and value the righteousness of Christ above everything else.

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