Monday, June 11, 2012
The Burden of the Pharisees
Today's Scripture: Matthew 23:1-7
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’
Today isn't going to be an academic study, so much, as a devotional look at this scripture. I came to my devotional time and found myself in Matthew 23. Boy did that take me down a notch! If anyone likes being called teacher or rabbi, it's a pastor, especially us young pastors who sometimes feel we have to gain visibility and respect...
Hmmm. Well, let's look more closely at this one line:
For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others.
I know a few modern day pastors that are like this and I strive to not be like them. Oh, but yet they are often well-liked by their congregations. How is that? Pastors who tell everyone what terrible sinners they are and make long list of prohibitions "tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry" are, in fundamentalist circles, often beloved.
I'm all about setting high expectations for the faithful, but there are two caveats: 1.) I'm one of the faithful. That means: I have to live by the expectations as well! 2.) God's expectation of us, it seems, is first and foremost that we should love others and God. It is hard for me to effectively tell other people (in a prescriptive formula) how they ought to do it without modeling it. It is better that I should attempt to live out my faith as I share that faith from the pulpit!
The problem with the pharisees is often a problem we have today. We prescribe other people's faith without living out our own faith. As a people of the book we would be wise to set it down once in a while and live out the love we so often read about and stop creating ineffective burdens that weigh down our congregations.