Majoring in Minors

Harlan G. Vanden Einde is pastor of the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has been asked to write a series of Meditations, the first of which appears in this issue.

“. . . these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).

It is no secret that there was a running confl ict

between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees of His day. The chapter from which the above verse is quoted contains seven woes pronounced by Jesus upon them for their misinterpretation of the law of Moses.

Though they considered themselves to be law-experts, their actions revealed that the scribes and Pharisees were minus genuine Christian sympathy, sincerity, and humility. Having an eye for strict religious detail, they majored in minors, and left undone the more important matters. Specifically in this verse, Jesus accuses them of a gross inconsistency, since they were more concerned about tithing even their small aromatic herbs which grew in their gardens than they were about adhering to the more important requirements of the law, namely, justice, mercy and faithful ness. Human regulations took precedence over divine ordinances! Thus the charge that they were blind guides who “s train out the gnat, and swallow the camel.”

It is no small challenge in the Christian life to put first things first. Total commitment to Jesus Christ means more than having membership in some congregation. It even means more than attending worship services on Sunday. To have the Lord Jesus Christ as our object of worship is one thing, but there is always the danger of treating Him as the heathen would an idol—singing His praises, bringing an offering, and then going on our way to live our lives as if Jesus never lived or died or rose again. Total commitment means accepting His Lordship over all of life, and an earnest striving to walk in obedience to His will in every avenue of life. To believe the message of the Christian gospel and then to leave undone the living out of its implications, is to rob life of its meaning.

How easily we get caught up in the busyness of church life today. There are so many organizations within the organization that we sometimes cannot find the time to get everything organized. There are often so many committees in operation that there are few hours left to do the work that needs doing.

There was an Englishman watching an American football game for the first time in his life, who was asked by his American friend how he liked the game. After he had observed the game for awhile, the Englishman replied: “It‘s a fine sport, but they have too many committee meetings.” Perhaps we need to be more aware of the danger of worshipping our organizations. Care must be taken not to let our organizations use us, but that we use them to accomplish God‘s purposes in the world.

If we spend more time in trying to decide how to do something than we spend in the doing of it, then we may be guilty of majoring in minors, or to put it differently, of “sitting on the premises” rather than “standing on the promises.”

There is much of Christianity today which consists of hollowness rather than holiness. The Pharisees were accused of the same fatal error when Jesus described their outward appearance as a whited sepulchre, sparkling on the outside with brilliant beauty, but hollow on the inside, reeking with the smell of dead men’s bones. Merely going through the motions of Christian living is a popular but fatal flaw. Though people can readily be deceived, God reads the thoughts and intents of the heart, even as Jesus saw through the whited sepulchres of the Pharisees.

Holiness is what God is seeking in us. Not the selfrighteous piety which caused the scribes and Pharisees to disdain the publicans and sinners with whom Jesus sat and ate—but a sense of separation from sin, and a dedication to live a life of service in obedience to the will of God. Permeating all of life there should be a deep awareness of our calling, coupled with an abiding consciousness of God’s presence, enabling us to walk in obedience of heart and mind and action to the will of God.

Indeed, the organization of the church is important. Even as the football team needs its “committee meetings” to plan the strategy for the next play, so the work of the church needs to be planned and coordinated in order that it may be carried out wisely and effectively. To let come what mayin doing the Lord‘s work on the Lord‘s time in the Lord‘s world can hardly be said to be praiseworthy exercise of our stewardship.

But let us beware lest we spend so much time in the “huddle” that the plays are never executed. There is a world out there which needs the ministry of the church. The gospel of Jesus Christ must be carried by God’s people into shops and offices, into classrooms and dormitories, into the business executive’s meeting room and the factory assembly line, into the courts of justice and the legislative chambers of both state and nation.

Christianity is not a religion merely to be picked up and taken to church on Sunday, but it’s a way of life seven days a week. We need to put forth every effort every day to bring the Lordship of Jesus Christ to bear on every aspect of our Christian living. Father, help us to:

Say what we mean And mean what we say, Following Thy will Day after day.