"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier 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. Matthew 23:23-24 NIV
Practice without Principle
Throughout the Bible, as far back as Cain and Abel, we see God's people giving material offerings to the priest for the work of the ministry, and appreciation unto God. In my past, I've said Cain and Abel commenced it, Abraham endorsed it and Moses legislated it. Giving has always been a key element in advancement. The Pharisees understood this principle because in this time people lived according to the "sow and eat" theory. Which means all that you had to eat was produce of what you worked/ sowed for. Most men in this era, where farmers of a specific crop. Their job was to grow the crop or in other word sow seed, nurture the plant and reap the harvest to eat. Also, they would sell or trade their specific crop for different food or goods. However, when giving was legislated the priest then gains the right of part-take of the crop, goods, or meat giving to the temple as a sacrifice because the job consisted of doing priestly work in the temple such as worship, handling, cleaning and distribution of the sacrifices offered. Therefore their payment was to reap or in other word eat from what was given.
With that being said Jesus basically reads and addresses the Pharisee's heart by saying their giving is in vain because their motives are wrong. They give with the intent to increase their pockets. Some people do things in order to fulfill traditions that make them look or feel good, but in the midst of doing so they end up hurting the people they are performing for. Often times, we pick up habits or practices that are beneficial for us but only under the right circumstances. We do things because our mom did it, or our granddad did it failing to exam if we are doing it with the same motive, intention and with the same condition. More often than not, if we take a second to analyze our actions, habits and day to day practices, we'll find that what worked for us two years ago may not be what works for us now. Giving is a principle, a fundamental rule or belief that governs one's personal and/or spiritual behavior. Jesus never said they lost their reverence for the principle of giving because truth be told they understood so much of how beneficial the principle was when put to practice that it became habitual. Eventually, this beneficial practice blinded them from everything else that was legislated by Moses. i.e. Justice, Mercy, Faithfulness.
The Spirit of Tradition
The Spirit of Tradition defined as the transmission of customs or beliefs from one generation to the next; or in other words, the fact of being passed down in this way from one party to another. Giving was a principle instituted by the Prophets for the benefit of the people and to be pleasing unto God. However, over time this principle has been abused, misused and turned into a traditional practice for selfish gain. When Jesus is addressing this situation to the Pharisees, He simply acknowledges that the Pharisees are on the right track to success but their success was being hindered. Learning to value the true goal is important. Often times, we mistakenly find more value in success than we do in the actual process it took to become successful. Tradition binds us to only implementing certain principle into applicable situation without taking into consideration God's opinion. Tradition in other word is the absence of revelation. Revelation is the revealing of insight.
"the Game is not about Winning , it about How You Win." In the Book of Exodus, Moses is leading the Nations of Israel out from under the captive of Egypt. Along their journey, they get thirsty and begin to bother Moses. Moses then seeks God for a solution and The Lord answer Moses instructing him to stand before the rock, strike it, and water will come gushing out. (Exodus 17:6) He obeyed the Word of the Lord and what was spoken happen. However, in a new season, a new chapter, a new book of the bible the people begin to come to Moses and Aaron again complaining about the lack of water. So the Prophet along with his brother fell on their face to seek a solution from God. The Lord answered them instructing Moses to go stand before the rock, speak to it and it will gush out water. (Number 20:11) However, this time Moses didn't obey. Instead, he followed after the ways that were most familiar to him, striking the rock. Now for the sake of His Name, the Lord still provided water for the people but as a result of Moses' lack of faith, unwillingness to open his mind, and disobedience he was hindered from escort the people into the land of promise.
Passing down fundamental principle are great. On the contrary, we must be mindful of the reason we traditionalize these principles. Remembering how these principles not only effect us but other people can help us create a balance in our habitual and sporadic activities. Traditions are positive activities that keep us in cycles that cause us to never yield or produce consistent growth. However, Jesus' mission was to value the principles passed down through traditional teaching while creating a platform for improvement or change. Jesus was imparting wisdom into his disciple on fairness by applauding their efforts but amending their error.