August 1

Text: Matthew 23:4-7

 "And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.”  (NASB)

Here Jesus indicted the Pharisees for four things.  (1) They failed to practice what they preached.  (2) They were discouraging teachers.  (3) They called attention to themselves.  (4) They loved the honor and privileges of their position.  These four things proved they failed to be God’s leaders.

Note: None of these had to do with criticism of a theological position.  The criticism focused on what they were, not on what they believed.  The fact that they believed in and advocated reform or that they believed in the afterlife did not make them righteous.  Righteousness was not about “presenting” correct positions or better conclusions than others.  It was about “being.”  Certainly, every person following Jesus Christ is devoted to correct positions and conclusions.  However, correctness cannot and does not compensate for behavior.  Correctness is never a substitute for godly behavior!

Religious leaders (1) should be an example, (2) should encourage those they teach (godliness is not a burden!)  (3) should be humble, and (4) should have motives and values that are respectable.  Leadership is not the result of position, but the result of exemplary motives and values.  It is not “You must respect me because of my position” but “You should respect me because of what I am.”

Following God is a challenge, but never a distasteful challenge.  As horrible as the situation was that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel faced (see Isaiah 1:2-6; Jeremiah 5:1-6; Ezekiel 2:1-10) they also declared hope (see Isaiah 55:6, 7; Jeremiah 23:3-8; Ezekiel 37:1-14).

God has the ability and desire to help those who curse themselves with their own wickedness.

Suggestion for reflection: Is your confidence in who you are or what Christ has made you?  (Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-11.)

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