Ryle: The excessive importance attached to trifles


J. C. Ryle comments on Luke 6:1-6, part of our read-through-the-Bible passage today:

We should notice, in this passage, what excessive importance hypocrites attach to trifles. We are told that, “One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples broke off heads of wheat, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grains.” At once the hypocritical Pharisees found fault, and charged them with committing a sin. They said, “Why do you that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days?” The mere act of plucking the heads of wheat of course they did not find fault with. It was an action sanctioned by the Mosaic law. (Deut. 23:25.) The supposed fault with which they charged the disciples, was the breach of the fourth commandment. They had done work on the Sabbath, by taking and eating a handful of food……

It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul, when he begins to put the second things in religion in the first place, and the first things in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. Let us beware of falling into this state of mind. There is something sadly wrong in our spiritual condition, when the only thing we look at in others is their outward Christianity, and the principal question we ask is, whether they worship in our communion, and use our ceremonial, and serve God in our way.

Do they repent of sin? Do they believe on Christ? Are they living holy lives? These are the chief points to which our attention ought to be directed. The moment we begin to place anything in religion before these things, we are in danger of becoming as thorough Pharisees as the accusers of the disciples.