“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22b
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’”
The Pharisees were experts in the law, and they were critical of Jesus. They complained about Him not washing His hands before a meal (Mark 7:1-5), about picking grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-2), and about befriending sinners (Matthew 9:11). Yet Jesus valued the law and told His followers to obey it. So He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
As a deputy prison warden for many years, I was responsible for making sure laws and rules were followed. They protected us all from violence. They kept prisons safe; they kept peace.
Jesus knew laws were sometimes used to enforce tradition or custom. People (both then and now) often use the keeping of laws to merit good standing in society and with God. Jesus demands perfect law-keeping to face Him in heaven one day, but He also knows we cannot do it on our own. That is the very reason He offers His righteousness to us. We obey laws because of our love for Him, not so others can judge whether our actions are praiseworthy or not.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through … The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24)