Straining Out a Gnat

“Straining Out a Gnat”
Matthew 23:23-24 “in a snailshell”
Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang
The word for cummin (or cumin), the seeds of a plant used for seasoning (Greek kuminon), is of Semitic origin (kammon). 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

Matthew 23:23-24

Legalistic Trivia

Meticulously measuring a tenth of their tiniest herbs and seeds, scribes and Pharisees miss the forest for the trees. Tunnel vision focused on trivial details to the exclusion of godly virtues like justice, mercy, and fidelity blinds the “guides.” In fact, the Mosaic law, which requires a tithe of the main harvest, makes no mention of seasonings like mint, dill, and cummin.

The Gnat and the Camel

With a sense of humor, Jesus imagines the scrupulous scribes and Pharisees pouring wine through a cloth to strain out a gnat. For the law forbids the consumption of “swarming things” (winged insects).1 While straining out a tiny gnat, they gulp down a camel—an unclean animal of preposterously greater proportions.2

Counting cummin, the legal bureaucrat
Gulps a camel while straining out a gnat.

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1 Leviticus 11:41. 
2 Leviticus 11:4.

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