Our text is from Matthew chapter 23 verse 23 and it is no wonder that YESHUA spoke it to the Pharisees of His day. It reminds us of the great principles of kindness found at the end of Ephesians chapter 5 and throughout the Word of God. GOD says,
'On My day, you shall rest, and your servant.'
That leaves us with a problem. How do you light a fire on Shabbat? The answer to that, in my opinion, is light it before Shabbat, then you can keep it going, that's Okay. Get in your wood supplies; get in your fuel before the Shabbat, and then that's okay. Rest for your servants; mercy for fugitives. GOD says when a slave escapes from his master to you, don't hand him back to his former master. Let him live at liberty with you. He's a refugee. Give him a place to stay with you. Give him an inheritance among you. Isn't that marvellous? We think of the Law of Moses as hard and rigid, and yet these benevolent rules are found everywhere in the Law. It's the Law that teaches us love, mercy and faith.
There is a story told in the Greek writers about a certain man called Pyrrhias. He was a fairly wealthy man, and he noticed among the slaves there was an old man who had only as his possession, a few barrels of tar, or pitch. He felt sorry for this old man. He thought that old man, 'he's destitute', so he bought him out. He paid the slave dealer and he bought this old man out. This old man was so grateful to Pyrrhias because he saw this Greek man, Pyrrhias, was not going to gain any thing from such an old man. He said, 'I've got something to show you.' He opened one of his barrels of tar, and in the tar there were gems hidden, and he gave some of them to the one who had bought him out.
There is another story told of another Greek man called Xenocrates - quite a name isn't it? Xenocrates. He noticed a little sparrow twittering, fluttering frantically in a panic. And he looked for the cause of the panic and above the little sparrow was a hawk, a sparrow hawk after it. And this bird, in its panic, dived into his cloak. What do you think Xenocrates did? He drew his cloak over the little bird until the hawk flew away. Then he opened his cloak and he said to the little bird, 'I did not betray your trust in me.' And he let the bird go.
These stories are found in the ancient Greek writers, but they illustrate to us very well what mercy means. Adequate provisions for our employees as well. Make sure that we provide for them. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, is described:
'She will not be afraid of the cold because all her household, all her servants, are dressed in scarlet.' That is the colour of distinction. It was for those who had status. Even her servants were well clothed and furnished against winter. Abraham was a good master. The centurion was a good master, the one whose servant was so sick, he sent to YESHUA and said,
'My servant is very sick, just speak the word and he will be well again.' So there we see the beautiful standards set before us. What a marvellous impact we would make on society if we followed these rules from our hearts. What a tremendous change it would make in our society. Well let's be pioneers. Let's pray that with the help of GOD we may match up to these standards. It won't be easy. It will take warfare.
This leads us to the early verses of Ephesians chapter 6 which talk about spiritual warfare:
'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of GOD that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of GOD that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.'
That word 'finally' means 'that which remains', 'this is what remains'. And it is, as it were, the icing on the cake; the most important of all. We find the same at the end of 1st Corinthians, Chapter 12, where he describes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and poses a number of questions at the end of the chapter in verse 29:
'Are all apostles, are all prophets, are all teachers, are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues, and do all interpret?' The answer, of course, is no. Every one has a different gift. But then he goes on to say, verse 31, 1st Corinthians 12:
But earnestly desire the best gifts, and yet I show you a more excellent way.' In addition to all these gifts,
'I show you a more excellent way,' and that's the sense in which we are to take it here. Finally. In addition to all these principles of kindness that I have shown you, this is also vital for you to know.
'Finally, my brethren.'
Do you see how Paul speaks here? He is an apostle. He has seen the Messiah! He has been taught personally by Him! But he still calls his fellow Believers, 'my brethren.' And that's a good place to stay at. Your Worship; your Excellency; Dominee; Reverend; all these titles, they are man-made. We are brethren! When John wrote the Book of Revelation, he says, 'I am also your brother and companion in tribulation.' 'I, John,' That's all he says. 'I, John, am your brother.' That's why it's a good thing to call each other 'brother,' 'sister.' That's biblical. Titles that are more than that, we want to avoid if we can. This too is part of kindness.