Practice What You Preach
12 May 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-4 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. (Matthew 23:1–4 NLT)
Jesus spoke this to the crowds and to his disciples. As he neared the end, he spent more time with his disciples, giving them the teaching and training that would help them carry on. But this warning was for everybody. And it’s still a legitimate warning about teachers of religious law and others in places of authority in our world.
“Practice and obey what they tell you, but don’t follow their example. They don’t practice what they teach.” Jesus didn’t condemn what the Pharisees taught, but what they were: hypocrites! Even though they had added many of their own man-made rules and ritual practices to the simple laws God gave Israel, many of those rules were in themselves helpful for a peaceful society.
“They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” The Pharisees’ attitude toward the rules was, “This stuff is important for the common people, but we’re above this. We are the self-appointed guardians of what’s right for others, but we’re entitled to make exceptions for ourselves!” Because they lived in a kind of religious bubble, they really didn’t know or care how difficult their hundreds of rules and rituals made life for ordinary people who were just trying to live their lives.
I don’t know how it is for you, but I’m becoming more aware of the difference between religious traditions and demands that end up being a burden and obligation, and the simple commands Jesus gives us to “Love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and to love others as we love ourselves.” The demands of religion can become crushing burdens and the commands of Jesus become liberating opportunities to grow in grace and make our world better for others. What do you think?
Father, Please help us to be both wise and discerning to know the difference between religious demands that burden and crush people, and Jesus’ commands that free us to grow in grace and flourish in blessing others. For the Kingdom’s sake!