Journal Matt 23 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matt 23:11-12
Observation: I am seeing right now where Jesus isn’t speaking in parables or stories. Am I tired of indirect sayings? If so, I get the 2×4 between the eyes right here…
Analysis: Right in verse 1, the writer of Matthew says that Jesus is speaking to the crowds and the disciples. Just a little bit later, it is evident that ruling/leading Pharisees and Scribes are in that “crowd.”
I don’t think that all what Jesus is saying is only for the Pharisee/Scribes; it is also for me to pay attention to.
I see the preface “Woe to you…” 7 times in this chapter. Categorizing each ‘woe to you’, I get:
- V13: Hypocritical leadership. “Do what I say, don’t look at my life. I lead/teach, you follow.”
- V15: Hypocritical evangelizing. I make a public effort to evangelize. When I get the “yes”, I notch my Bible and leave the “convert” to his own devices.
- V16: More hypocrisy concerning oaths.
- V23: Hypocritical religious lives. I do the “outside”, checking the boxes on the list stuff, but no further. I don’t seek God.
- V25: Hypocritical presentation of the outward, refusing to address the heart.
- V27: More definition of outward hypocrisy.
- V29: Overestimating myself compared to others in the past: “I know that I wouldn’t have done what they did…”
It is evident the common word is hypocrisy. “Woe to you, you hypocrites”, says Jesus. “Let me list out in detail what I mean…”
While I can say, “They deserve it, evil Pharisees”, I must realize these are about me, also.
Two examples, one from the NT, the other from life.
- Prodigal Son story, but not the wayward son, the stay at home, dutiful older son. The older son at the end of the story whined and complained. “No fuss is displayed over me and I do all the right things, Dad. What’s up with that? It isn’t fair.” I see more than a little hypocrisy going on here and, worse yet, I see it in the Mirror.
“Jesus’ criticism of the older brother is implied rather than stated. But it is obvious that He puts the older brother in the same category as the self-righteous Pharisee. Yet the older brother would have qualified as an elder or deacon any of our churches today and would have been highly regarded. We need to learn the lesson Jesus was teaching and to se the hideousness of the sin of self-righteousness.” Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, Chapter 2, page 39.
- Witnessing. Let me tell you about Jesus, but don’t look at my life. Directionally true, but can it be an excuse for me NOT to pursue God and maturing in the Faith. Sure, it can. Happens all the time. “I want to tell you about the Pearl of Great Price, it is worth everything, but….I am not trying to actively purchase it so if you are going to be serious, don’t use me as an example to follow.”
It is difficult to walk down the path of holiness, of servanthood, of humbling myself. But that difficulty is only because I must repudiate my sin daily.
After all, Jesus said His yoke is easy and it is a light burden.
Prayer: Lord God. I want to flee hypocrisy. Only way to do that (from my bone-headed POV) is to be fiercely transparent—no other way. I don’t want to present transparency, I want transparency to be a solid reflex in my life. Make me fear You, rather than be afraid of others.
Bring revival, AMEN.