Jesus uses strong words to caution his disciples about some of the religious leaders among them. The scribes and Pharisees teach and interpret the law of Moses, just as Jesus does. But there is a problem: These religious leaders teach one thing and live another. They have made following the law burdensome for others and enjoy the benefits of their social status. But Jesus’ words condemn hypocrisy—saying one thing while living another.
This passage comes toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus has spent three years teaching his followers about the nature of the kingdom of God as a way of life that begins now. It is founded on love rather than rigid rules. It is a way of life that honors and responds to our Creator and to one another by living with compassion for the poor, outcast, and needy persons that we meet on our journey of faith. Jesus rebukes the religious leaders because they are looking out for themselves. At a time when Rome is all-powerful and the emperor appoints a Jewish high priest who will best accomplish his political ends, those appointed as teachers and leaders of the people find it convenient to compromise their truth-telling and way of life.
This passage invites me to look at how I relate to the life and teaching of Jesus. Is what I say in conflict with the way I live? Am I following Christian leaders who live in conflict with the gospel of love and grace they teach? Jesus gives wise counsel about how to relate to those who are like the scribes and Pharisees: “Do whatever they teach you . . . but do not do as they do.”
Loving Creator, wake me up to pride and pretense, and help me to live the gospel way of love. Amen.
The book of Joshua tells the story of the return of the Israelites to the land promised to Abraham. They have escaped captivity in Egypt by a miraculous crossing, and now they enter the land in a similar way. Psalm 107 speaks of God gathering the people from distant lands and bringing them out of the desert into a land of plenty. It is a poetic reflection on the experience of the Israelites. Paul often experiences resistance from various sources. In a defense of his integrity, he points to his actions as proof of his virtue. Jesus reminds us that we can do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If we act in order to draw attention to ourselves, then even good deeds lose their luster in God’s eyes.
Read Joshua 3:7-17. When have you had to trust leaders for the good of your community?
Read Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37. Recall difficult times in your faith journey. How did you experience God’s steadfast love through these times?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13. What daily practices give you insight into God’s Word? How do you encourage others in their life of faith?
Read Matthew 23:1-12. Do your leaders live what they preach? If you are a leader, how do you strive to live the gospel?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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