SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- In this chapter, Jesus confronts the Pharisees. He starts by telling a crowd of people that they should follow the teachings of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, but to not imitate what they do -- in other words, do as they say, not as they do. These religious leaders didn’t practice what they preached. Jesus said that everything these men did was for others to see.
- Jesus mentions "phylacteries," which were little boxes of Bible verses the Pharisees wore on their head and arms to try to make it look like they were really righteous. The Pharisees and teachers of the law certainly looked like they loved God.
- Jesus gives the crowd a quick lesson about status in the kingdom of God. He tells his audience not to call anyone master, father, or teacher except for God. Basically the idea is not that we shouldn't honor people, but that we should give credit or reverence to people that only belongs to God.
- He also mentions God's great hierarchy reversal by saying, “the greatest among you will be your servant.”
- Jesus calls the Pharisees some harsh names, explaining (in verse 13) that instead of bringing people to God as they were supposed to, they were keeping people from him.
- Note that the New International Version of the Bible omits verse 14 but mentions in the notes section that “Some manuscripts to. 14 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Therefore you will be punished more severely.” This is because not all manuscripts (original handwritten copies) included this verse, but enough did to warrant a note. It is common to have these kind of slight differences in the early writings, but this doesn't impact their validity because there are literally thousands of early manuscripts that are impressively consistent. Note that the major tenets of the Christian faith are based on verses found in all manuscripts.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- Jesus made it clear that merely “looking the part” doesn’t get us anything with God. In fact, it leads to evil. Jesus wants people to genuinely follow him. So how do we overcome the temptation to appear as though we are perfect? Part of it is playing for an audience of one. We should only be concerned with what God thinks, not impressing other people. Another aspect is practice our good deeds in secret (as Jesus teaches in Matthew, chapter six). We need to try and make sure others don't know about the good we do, so we're not tempted to do it so they'll know it.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- If you've been following the reading plan, you've probably noticed that this theme of hypocrisy has been coming up often in Jesus' teaching. He is really serious about making sure that people have a genuine faith from the heart, not a manufactured faith to impress others. But are you serious about it? It's human nature to care too much about how we appear, so we need to be very careful about this. Ask God to help you!