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.

Just Posted

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

’Tis the season for joy and celebration, but the Christmas season can… Continue reading

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Tkachuk’s goal in 3rd gives Flames 2-1 win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through… Continue reading

Women use scent to lure wolf-dog that ran away from Calgary airport

EDMONTON — A woman from Alberta is thanking an unconventional strategy for… Continue reading

Suspect in Alberta, Saskatchewan bank robberies to get mental assessment

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former Winnipeg broadcaster and journalism instructor accused… Continue reading

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government hopes to make legal changes… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. — All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Baylor ties pervade rape case that sparked uproar

DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a… Continue reading

Most Read