ARE YOU STEPPING UP?
Lord, keep me on the straight path.
Read MATTHEW 23:13–24
Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  [Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47.]
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] do nothing” (Edmund Burke, 1729—1797).
Woe oracles pepper the Old Testament, especially the prophets—God’s spokespeople crying warnings of impending doom—for example, “Woe to them, because they have strayed from me!” (Hosea 7:13). In the New Testament, these woe oracles are found mostly on the lips of Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus’ woes are a profound warning of impending disaster unless the hearers repent. They warn of the impending destruction of the nation and, ultimately, eternal destruction.
Whereas earlier Jesus has directed woes to specific towns, here are the first four of his seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus declares the corruption of these Jewish leaders. First, in their rejection of Jesus as Messiah they shut off the kingdom to others within Israel. Second, they go to extraordinary lengths to make Jewish converts, but these proselytes become worse than their teachers. The third and fourth woes demonstrate their complex and pedantic systems, which are full of inconsistencies and show their spiritual blindness and hypocrisy. They neglect the heart of the Law—faithfulness to God and his covenant, justice toward all and mercy towards the marginalized.
Whereas in secular societies church and state are either separated or in an uneasy relationship, in Israel church and state are wedded. These leaders are both political and religious leaders. Their corruption illustrates the moral and spiritual decline of a whole nation and its religion. Disaster appears when groups of corrupt leaders gain control of a nation, organization, church or denomination. Corrupt leaders can gain control of a church if faithful Christians keep out of church politics. To keep out is a mistake, for God calls us to step up and get involved. This will preserve his church. It prevents dark forces from assuming control.
Are you stepping up? Your church needs you.
Reflect on the state of your church, denomination and nation. Pray for each and their leaders. Ask God what you can do. Emulate Jesus and step up, whatever the cost.
Lord, help our church leaders be spiritually stalwart and remain so as we look to them to set the example.