“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?” Matthew 23:23-24 (MSG)


Our to-do lists tend to dictate our lives. Whether it is a mental list or a paper list, we continually look for ways to check items off the list after we complete the task. Even our relationships with people can be part of a to-do list of calling back a friend or scheduling dinner. Although to-do lists aren’t bad, they can cause us to develop a checklist mentality.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’ day and were very familiar with the to-do list. They would tend to have as much on the to-do list as the “not to-do” list. They were attempting to achieve righteousness by abiding by the religious law. Jesus is telling them that their meticulous calculations were receiving more attention than the development in their heart.  Jesus was more concerned with people having a relationship with God, because then the to-do list flows out of a desire to love and honor God.  In our relationship with God, it can be easy to focus on the things that we can check off our list. We attended church, paid our tithes, and spent 15 minutes with God every morning for a week.  Check, check, check.  Although there is nothing wrong with routine and structure, God doesn’t want to be limited to our to-do list. There is a tendency to move on after we accomplish a task and forget about it. God doesn’t want our 15, 30, or 60 minutes in the morning then to be forgotten the rest of the day simply because we “checked” spending time with God off of our mental to-do list.  Our to-do list usually reflects the priorities in our lives. What a tragedy it would be to accomplish all the things on your life-long to-do list only to realize that you should have spent more time with God. You will be hard pressed to remember all the things on your daily to-do list 10 years from now, but you will remember the moments that you invested in your relationship with God.

Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.