Matthew 22:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
After being challenged multiple times by the religious authorities, Jesus goes from defense to offense. Now he is the one pointing out deficiencies of the scribes and Pharisees. Three particular points he holds up for scrutiny:
1. v.2-3 Jesus acknowledges the fundamental authority of scribes and Pharisees, yet condemns them for failing to practice what they preach.
2. v.4 Having begun with the ten commandments given to Moses, the scribes and Pharisees continue to expand the rules and regulations for everyday people – to the point of being overly burdensome.
3. v.5-7 The scribes and Pharisees practice a conspicuous form of piety in full view of others. They value public recognition – the VIP treatment – more than they should.
I’ve definitely known all three of these shortcomings, but its the first one that hits particularly close to home for me. As a pastor I teach and preach many important things. It’s my job, and I’m pretty good at it. But there are times when I’m aware the teachings of Jesus are ideals which are often hard to live up to.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Do not judge others lest you be judged.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength – and your neighbor as yourself.
Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear…
Every day I’m aware that I fall short of these sayings of Jesus, even while teaching them to others. Like the scribes and Pharisees, I become a hypocrite. There have been times when I’ve felt so convicted by this I’ve wondered if I should find another calling. Many times I’ve prayed to the Lord for guidance. How can someone as flawed as I am be a pastor in the church? Then I recall the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle…10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.
Just substitute the word “pastor” for the word “apostle” above and that’s me. The least of all. Terribly unworthy. And yet – God uses me for his purposes anyway. God’s grace is poured out TO me and poured out THROUGH me. And so I end my reflection this morning convicted by my sin, grateful for God’s grace, and confident that the One who has begun a work in me will one day bring that work to completion.
Lord Jesus, let it be so.