How many Christians do you know that are just like Jesus in their attitudes and actions? How many Christians do you know who reach out to the lowest of the low, the down and out, the outcasts, the illegal, and anyone who has fallen through the cracks? How many Christians do you know who associate with the unrighteous and are often seen in the presence of sinners? How many Christians do you know walk in love and live by compassion for others? How many Christians do you know who never miss an opportunity to be kind or caring?
How many Christians do you know that are just like the Pharisees in their attitudes in actions? How many Christians do you know who reach out only to other brothers and sisters in the faith? How many Christians do you know who associate only with their own who are like-minded? How many Christians you know who walk in righteousness and live by being judgmental about the sins of others? How many Christians do you know who never miss an opportunity to be righteous?
I couldn’t help but ask myself ‘when did Christians turn themselves into Pharisees?’ as I read accounts where Christians marginalized and ignored the sort of people that Jesus would have loved and shown compassion. Christians accepted and praised the sort of people that Jesus would have scolded. So let’s take a look at Matthew 23:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
We do have Christians that are in positions of authority and we’re supposed to listen to them. But in any number of recent scandals – big and small – we can see that many do not practice what they preach. Not only that, there’s an element of legalism using the New Testament to trap people in a works / rules religion to try to maintain righteousness.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
There are those among them who like to keep up appearances – to make things look all right whether they are or not. And there’s no shortage of titles: ‘Doctor (of theology)’ ‘Reverend’ ‘Pastor’ ‘Teaching Pastor’ ‘Brother’. My church has even been known to celebrate: “Pastor Appreciation Day”. If we are trying to cultivate a humble leadership I think that we’ve gone about it the wrong way. But that is just the introduction – Jesus tells the people how he really feels about it next – and he doesn’t mince words.