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Weekly Devotionals


1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 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. 4 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.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23:1-12 (Our Daily Lent Devotional Reading for today extends all the way to v. 39)

In our passage today, Jesus is speaking out, rather publicly (to the crowds and to his disciples), about the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.  Hypocrisy is defined as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.”  Its etymological context refers to an actor on stage.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were just actors.  They didn’t truly believe what they espoused in their teachings.  But which aspects?

Surely they believed in God; they believed they were created by Him; they believed they needed to read the Word to know Him.  But look at Jesus’ accusations towards them.  They’re “not willing to lift a finger” to help people.  They seek to be recognized rather than to walk in humility.  Later in vv. 13-39, Jesus goes through a litany of accusations against them ranging from not showing mercy and justice, to being greedy and self-indulgent.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to care about the tenets and rituals of their faith, while Jesus cared about the inner character which produces the outer actions of the person.

When we think about it, it is so easy for us to become like the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Tenets and rituals are easy to recite and exercise, respectively.  These things stand outside of us and we can easy put them on like a jacket and perform like actors.  But Jesus is looking for the real thing…transformation from the inside – changed character, values and personhood that produces real virtue in the way we treat others and don’t live selfishly.  This is true religion and this is truly human.  And it is to be taken very seriously, because in v. 15, Jesus calls the Pharisees and teachers of the law, “child[ren] of hell” on the basis of their hypocrisy.

Let’s reevaluate ourselves.  Do you practice what you preach?