Daily Readings: Exodus 15-16, Psalm 24, Matthew 23
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”
-Matthew 23:23-26, 29-32
Jesus did not mince words when it came to rebuking the religious establishment of the day. He came out swinging.
It really hit me today when he challenged how they thought that they would have approached the past. “And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets…”
It is so easy to look back in time and think, “I would have never acted that way!” That is certainly how I feel about the Pharisees we read about today.
What would Jesus say to the church today? If he was speaking to the American Evangelical Church, what would his message be?
I believe that many churches are doing an incredible job of fighting for justice, mercy, and faithfulness, the way Jesus described in this passage. However, there are so many instances where, I believe, Jesus would compare the American Church to whitewashed tombs. More worried about external appearance than mission.
This is also a powerful thought for each of us individually to spend time considering. It is never fun to be confronted with areas in our lives where we are more concerned with how we appear on the outside than what is happening inside, and yet we all have them. Part of being human is constantly fighting the urge to simply wash the outside of the cup.
My prayer today is that God would show me those areas of my life. My prayer is that Jesus would convict me in the truth of my motives in different areas and expose any that are not in line with his will. I want to walk more and more closely with Christ every single day, even if that means he occasionally needs to say to me, “Woe to you, Aaron, you hypocrite!”
When these moments do come, it is important to choose joy over shame. I am so thankful that the God of the universe cares enough about me to show me my blind spots! I want to grow and get better! I want a stronger relationship with him! Therefore I am thankful for his occasional loving rebuke.
Thought to ponder
Where are areas of my life where I am like the Pharisees?