January 26, 2016: Day 23 – Matthew 23

The verse which really defines what Jesus says in this entire chapter is vs. 3.  The religious leaders did not practice what they preached.  As a pastor looking outside of my office window at the 3 feet of snow, I wonder in what ways do I fall short so that Jesus might, just might, call me a hypocrite.  I am sure there are many areas of my life that are found wanting.  But this chapter is by far the harshest criticism of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  At the new members class we had one couple who said that they loved the church because it just seemed like a perfect place to raise a family.  There were no identifiable issues with which we were dealing.  I told them to give us a few weeks and you will find out that we are like every other church in many ways.

The hypocrisy that Jesus is especially speaking out against is when the leaders of the church set up more laws and more requirements to heaven than what Scripture allows.  We do not follow a set of rules, but rather a risen Savior.  Jesus tells the religious leaders not to focus on profit and benefiting from what the people bring in to them so that they can profit from it.  The religious leaders focus on how they were able to profit the most from the sacrifices of the people.  I guess the only parallel for today would be how do religious leaders profit from weddings, or baptisms, or funerals?  Or maybe we stress the numbers that attend so much that we tell people false theologies built around feeling good so that they will keep on coming.  

Maybe as you are reading this you can say that these verses are not addressed to you because you are not in a paid position of leadership in the church.  In some ways you are right, Jesus is not calling you a hypocrite.  But I would encourage you to identify ways in which the church and its leaders can be held more accountable so that there would never come a day at First Presbyterian where Jesus would say: make sure you listen to what they teach and follow it, but don’t do what they do.  That would be the worst kind of criticism possible.  We, pastors, need to be held accountable and you, the members, are the only who are able to do that.

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