Scripture Reading: Matthew 23:1-39 (NRSV)
How much conflict do you imagine continued in Matthew’s day between Jewish Christians and Jewish people that didn’t have faith in Jesus?
I think we can see from today’s reading that there would have continued to be a chasm between the two. Matthew looks back to the original difficulties of Jesus to make his current point.
Much of what Jesus critiques, he has espoused the opposite throughout the Gospel thus far.
When he speaks of the heavy burdens of the Pharisees, we remember that Jesus spoke of lightening them.
Grammar aside, this attitude
is one of the biggest
contributors to hypocrisy.
When he states that “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” we remember in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus states, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them” in 6:1.
When he speaks of the oaths made by the Pharisees, we are reminded that Jesus earlier told us not to swear oaths at all, rather “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (5:37).
Hypocrisy is so emphasized here that I wonder if it is not ingrained in the religious.
The book Unchristian utilized research from the Barna Group that asked why young people were staying away from the church. The first reason given in the book was that Christians were hypocritical. It has not gone away and as Matthew spends so much of the sermon material of Jesus on this issue, it must have remained important in his day as well.
As a gut check, we need to allow Jesus to preach this message to us.
Where are we saying one thing and doing another?
Who are we locking out of the kingdom of heaven?
When have I exalted myself rather than taken a more humble approach?
These are not questions of which we should be afraid but rather, we should be strong enough in our faith to ask them of ourselves regularly.
Prayer for the day:
God, we find ourselves siding with Jesus.
There are people we imagine him preaching this message to today.
We delight in their shock as they realize their folly.
It is difficult to remember that the whole nature of this passage
makes this stance very ironic.
Let us take this message at face-value.
Help us to repent where repentance is needed.
Photo by Malingering via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.