The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 11:42-46....
'But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.'One of the lawyers answered him, 'Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.' And he said, 'Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.Jesus obviously was not afraid of offending others. When someone warned him that his sayings were insulting, Jesus pulled no punches.
But notice whom Jesus speaks these woes against. He speaks against the Pharisees, the teachers who should have known better and who should have been helping others rather than hurting them.
Whenever Jesus had harsh words, they were not for those weighed down by their own sins and shortcomings. Jesus' strongest words were reserved for the arrogant. These words were a wake-up call designed to lead to repentance.
What should these Pharisees have been focused upon instead of the minutiae of tithing, angling for the seat of honor, demanding greetings of respect? Jesus says they should have paid more attention to justice and the love of God.
Notice especially what Jesus says to the lawyers. He accuses them of loading people with burdens too hard to bear and not bothering to lift those burdens themselves.
When it comes down to it, we can approach others in one of two ways: either we can act as burden-loaders or life-lifters. Which will we choose today?