Thursday, July 31, 2014

Warning Not To Be Like The Pharisees

Matthew 23:1-15

“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:1-7)

After having warned the Pharisees and scribes about their sin and leaving the ones who attempted to discredit him with nothing to say, Jesus warned to people about them.  They held positions of leadership much like that of Moses, teaching the people what god expected.  Unfortunately, while they were really good at telling other people what they should do, they didn’t even try to live up to the standard they demanded from others, considering themselves above such demands. 

All their effort was devoted to make a good religious show, dressing so that everyone would know they were religious.  They were like the preachers today who insist on wearing a suit and carrying around a big Bible so everyone knows they are a preacher.  They made a point of looking like a Christian.    

Like politicians, they made it a point to attend special events, making a point to be associated with the “right” people.  They loved being recognized and fawned over whenever they went out into the public and titles such as Rabbi or Reverend.  Christians are not to copy their attitudes or behaviors. 

 “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12)

Jesus said that the Christians were not to use titles such as Rabbi, the Jewish equivalent of Pastor or Preacher because Jesus is our leader and we are all equal before God.  Such titles imply a difference in importance.  They were not to use the title “father” because to do so was to elevate oneself to a position similar to that of God, effectively debasing him.  In the same way, they were not to use the title “Master”, ie. Doctor or Lord because Jesus is the one who to whom we are to be in submission, not some religious leader.   They were to honor those who did the work without acclaim as the best among them, while those who spent time on self-promotion and political maneuvering were to be ignored.   

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)

By re-interpreting the lawm the Pharisees and scribes were able to completely change what God had said, making it appear to mean something very different.  They then insisted that people had to meet their interpretation, rather than what God had said.  Those who insisted n doing it the way the Law specified were mocked and falsely accused of violating God’s law in an effort to convince them to change their standards.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” (Matthew 23:14)

Thanks to the teachings of scribes such as Hillel, instead of the property automatically returning to the family in the year of Jubilee as the Old Testament Law demanded, loans could be used as grounds to seize the property using the court system.  Rich Pharisees could lend money to a widow and then use the interpretations take her home away from her while making a big show about praying and religious activity.  Jesus said they would receive greater judgment for using religion to divert peoples’ attention from their wrong doing.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

The scribes and Pharisees would go to almost any length to get a person to commit to their beliefs, convincing him he had nothing to worry about, because he had gone through their specified plan with no real concern for God or his demands.    He was actually less likely to turn to God than he was before, and thus was worse off.

Sadly, we see these same attitudes among many who claim to be Christians today.

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