“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Yoga isn’t nearly as controversial in Christian circles as it was when I was growing up. Many believers spoke out about the slippery slope of foreign spiritual practices, particularly any involving meditation and contemplative exercises. Sure, some people still avoid yoga, but it’s not as divisive these days. I guess it’s difficult to deny the life-giving benefits of caring for one’s body, mind, and soul, especially when it’s possible to engage in yoga while focusing on Christ.
As you read about yoga, what stirs in you? Are you for it, against it, or indifferent? I ask because regardless of where you stand, today’s passage challenges us to live out a common yoga phrase: “return to center.” It’s something Jesus calls you and me to daily, moment-by-moment.
When the Messiah encountered the religious leaders in Matthew 23, He laid out seven woes. Today is number four. Three woes precede it, and three follow it. At the heart of the woes, in the center of the seven, Jesus makes it clear that the would-be spiritual forerunners of the day had fallen behind. They were missing the point and steering people off course from a right relationship with God and godly faith in action. Their priorities were not aligned with the heavenly Father’s heart. So, even though they were technically doing the right things (all the way down to tithing their cooking spices!), they weren’t honoring the will and way of God toward people. Christ let them know that their hearts needed to return to center ASAP.
Now back to yoga. Honestly, I’m not for or against it. But the angst it and other fringe issues cause for too many well-meaning Christians got me thinking:
- What do I insist on doing, or others not doing that leads people away from what God says matters most?
- How am I setting a rigid religious example that reveals my priorities are not aligned with the heart of our heavenly Father?
- Where do I need to return to center when it comes to focusing on Christ so that I can embody justice, mercy, and faithfulness with people on His behalf?
These are big questions, the kind of questions I believe Jesus would love for us to wrestle with after reading His woes. Are you open to the Holy Spirit helping you to return to center?
- What is something small but good that you’ve been too focused on lately?
- Ask God in prayer to redirect your focus back to Christ and choose someone to serve in a practical, tangible way.
Grab that printout again or your Bible. Today, mark any transition phases you see in the text and then take a few moments to summarize the chapter in just a few sentences.