What does it mean to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?

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Law of God  |  November 11

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,
”Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
”Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
’These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “

”Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Matthew 15:1-2, 7-9, 17-20


Jesus, these verses remind us of the phrase “you strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” wherein we focus on obedience in some small matter, in almost a compulsive way, believing that such obedience earns us points with You.

Here You teach us that doing the right thing, such as washing our hands before we eat, does not offset doing the wrong thing; keeping perfunctory rules and failing to understand how these actions mean nothing if we do not declare our love for You. It is sort of like, “no love for You, no credit for our good behavior”, at least in the eternal sense. Pride is such a subtle sin!

Help us learn this day “that which proceeds from the mouth” is pivotal in evaluating our relationship to You. Our words accuse us or excuse us.  We pray that obedience from a faithful heart marks us as Yours. In Your Holy name we pray, amen.

Bruce Caldwell

The Sola Scriptura Project

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