BEING A HISTORY MAKER
Lord, keep me from the charge of hypocrisy.
Read MATTHEW 23:1–12
A Warning Against Hypocrisy
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
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.
“The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt. 23:11).
In these verses Jesus warns against hypocrisy. He has just silenced his critics. Now he addresses the crowd concerning the scribes and Pharisees, his primary antagonists in Matthew’s Gospel. Verses 2–7 set the scene for the woes to come.
Jesus makes three accusations. He first points out their hypocrisy: they teach accurately, but they do not live the Law as God wants (2,3). He then criticizes their demands and their failure to help those who struggle to live by the Law—they are legalists who lack grace (4). Finally, he targets their outward displays of righteousness (5) and their hunger for public adulation (6,7).
In verses 8–12 Jesus turns from criticism to instruction. The disciples are not to seek honorific titles like Rabbi and Father. Their teacher is Jesus. They are constituted as one under their heavenly Father. The path to greatness is not fine clothes, impressive knowledge of Scripture or pursuit of fame. Rather, in order to change the world one must become a humble servant. We are to take up crosses and follow him, God’s Spirit-imbued Servant.
The path to changing the world for good is neither power, nor influence, nor piety. Rather, it is humility and service. In our desire to please Jesus we can easily stumble into the deficiencies seen in these leaders. We can study the Gospel deeply, yet fail to live it. We can become judgmental and graceless towards ourselves and others, or fall prey to seeking admiration. Zeal is good, but it should focus on pleasing God. Jesus shows us the way—renouncing self-adulation and serving others in humility. Then we will be the servant leaders God intends.
Loving God, reveal my hypocrisy, judgmentalism and pride. Forgive me, Lord. Fill me with Your Spirit, that I may be like You—a humble servant.
Lord, help us to avoid worldly, carnal pursuits and to focus on being pleasing to You.
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