READING: Matthew 22-23
It’s easy to condemn the Pharisees and teachers of the law of Jesus’ day. Though not all were this way, some were legalistic and arrogant. Certainly, they are a primary target of Jesus in today’s reading. They followed some laws to the nth degree, but then they missed the weightier matters of “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matt 23:23) — primary calls of the Old Testament prophets, as we’ve seen in previous devotions. Jesus even called them all a “brood of vipers” (Matt 23:33).
Lest we condemn them too quickly, though, we’re forced through today’s text to evaluate our own life. Is it possible that these words about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees describe us at all?
- “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” (Matt 23:3)
- “They love the place of honor at banquets . . . to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others” (Matt 23:6-70
- They “appear to people as righteous but on the inside . . . are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt 23:28)
I’ve been there, especially as a younger and undiscipled believer (as have many of us). I knew some of the right words to say, even if I didn’t always follow them myself. I grew to love the honor of being a church leader, including wanting to be known at one point more by my title than by my heart. My outside might have appeared to be righteous, but my inside was a mess. How grateful I am that God never let go of me in those days long ago!
I realize, though, that the danger of hypocrisy is never only a past-tense danger. With every day comes the possibility of “play acting.” Only God grace restores us from hypocrisy, and only His grace keeps us from going there again.
- Check your life in light of today’s readings. Any place where you find hypocrisy, confess and repent.
- Ask God to make you, or keep you, humble.
PRAYER: “God, sometimes I’m not all that I claim to be. Change me where I need to be changed today.”
TOMORROW'S READING: Matthew 24-25