July 31

Text: Matthew 23:1-3

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.”  (NASB)

Whereas many of Jesus’ words were directed to various religious leaders in the last two chapters, these words were given to the multitudes and to his followers.  Though the words were given to the people, the subject was the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees.

The scribes were acknowledged experts in the Law of Moses.  The process of reproducing accurate copies of the Old Testament books made them extremely knowledgeable of the contents of those books.  The Pharisees had long taught the importance of returning to the “old ways” and rejecting Greek influences on Jewish society and religion.  The common people accepted them as “the conservative” advocates of Scripture.  These were the “go to” people if one wanted to know what God said in scripture.  It was a reputation the scribes and Pharisees welcomed and sought to preserve.

Instead of “chair of Moses” we would have said, “the religious authority” or “the people who know scripture.”  Jesus said, “When they say scripture says something, listen to them—they know what scripture says.  However, do NOT follow their example!”  Why?  “They know what scripture says, but they do not know what it means.  Thus they make terrible applications of scripture to their lives.  So listen to what they say, but do not act like they act.”

What a terrible reality to be true of any religious person!  Religious people should be constant examples of what they know!  A Christ follower should know scripture and live by what he/she knows from scripture!  One does not know just to be able to say—a parrot can do that!  He/she knows to equip himself/herself to do!  Knowledge of scripture creates the ability to be an example of godliness!

In Christianity, knowledge of scripture that is not accompanied by godly behavior is wasted effort.  If one knows God, that person must walk with God.  To know God and not walk with God produces no eternal benefit.

Suggestion for reflection: Dare to know and do—be an example! (Read James 2:14-26.)

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