Straining gnats, swallowing camels

It’s hard to imagine Jesus having a bad day but he sure was ticked with the religious leaders.

It’s hard to imagine Jesus having a bad day but he sure was ticked with the religious leaders.

What bothered the Master most was their tendency to pray to God publicly and prey on others privately. Woe to you whose cunning is bedecked with a halo!

So the consummate teacher sketched a caricature to point out that while they were obsessed with religious ritual, they kept dropping the ball when it came to the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

According to their law, unclean food should not be eaten.

If you drank wine that had any microscopic gnats in it, then you would be breaking the law by eating an unclean animal even if it was microscopic.

So to keep the law, the Pharisees would pour their wine though a sort of cheesecloth to strain out any gnats. Think of them as the black flies of the Holy Land.

But Jesus created this sadly hilarious portrait of sanctimonious scribes, the exemplars of religiosity, swallowing the camel du jour and looking for the dental floss.

We still tend to get our knickers in a knot over gnats and ignore the ruminants. Goethe said that the things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.

Which should get more attention, the gnat in the wine or the camel in the craw?

A mom serves on all the right committees but her kids have to tuck themselves into bed night after night.

A dad makes sure that the offering gets on the church plate but is merciless with his employees.

It doesn’t take much for us to get bent out of shape over our public image but swallow injustice without batting an eye.

It’s too easy to fuss over form and protocol at the expense of spotting the proverbial elephant in the room.

Institutional Christianity is notorious for its brouhaha in the pursuit of trivia.

Is there excrement in heaven?

How does bread and wine transubstantiate into the flesh and blood of Jesus?

Who’s getting into heaven?

Who’s going to hell, for that matter?

In the meantime thousands of God’s little children die needlessly from malnutrition and related diseases.

Religious folks who profess their love for peace and God, kill one another in the name of that peace-loving God.

Innocents are blown up by suicide bombers. African genocide continues.

Is morality more about we do in the bedroom or the boardroom?

Is a righteous nation one that bans gay marriage or one that says no to nukes or whaling or the money sharks demanding their pound of flesh from poor Third World nations that are crippled with unjust debt burdens?

In the midst of environmental degradation and obscenely skewed wealth distribution, should our energy be focused on what music is used to worship God and which dead horses should be flogged?

First things first, right?

It’s time to stop picking away at gnats and time to start naming some camels.

Rev. Bob Ripley, author and syndicated columnist, is the senior minister of Metropolitan United Church in London Ontario. bobripley@metropolitanchurch.com

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Thousands to attend funeral service for officers killed in Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Hundreds of people have lined the route of a funeral… Continue reading

Calgary police officer seriously injured

CALGARY — The Calgary Police Service says one of its officers was… Continue reading

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

MONTREAL — Canadian politicians are adding their voices to the international reaction… Continue reading

‘Four of a dozen kids will not make it:’ Tina Fontaine’s family healing together

WINNIPEG — Melissa Stevenson was just starting her career 18 years ago… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $16 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $16 million jackpot… Continue reading

Hundreds of neo-Nazis march in Berlin, protected by police

BERLIN — Hundreds of neo-Nazis waving flags with the colours of the… Continue reading

Romanian trucker is Genoa bridge’s 43rd victim

GENOA, Italy — The Latest on the Italy bridge collapse (all times… Continue reading

1 dead, 6 injured after building collapse in Nigeria capital

ABUJA, Nigeria — An emergency response chief says one person is dead… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month