Text: Matthew 23:13-26
For greater love for both God and neighbor
For honesty in word and deed
AS THE TIME OF THE PASSION draws near, Jesus sharpens his attack upon his theological adversaries, the Pharisees. There is much about each of these woes that can reward study, but today let’s talk about the overall focus upon these “blind guides.”
Jesus’ core concern is about hypocrisy, a word that we use to describe a type of dishonesty, a disconnect between what a person says he or she believes and how the person actually acts. The environmentalist that that drives a gas-guzzler, the peace activist repeatedly arrested for assault, the family values advocate who neglects and abandons spouse and children—these are all examples, in our minds, of hypocrisy. We often compound our hypocrisy by lying or making excuses for our behavior, even as we hold to strict account others whose behavior falls short of their stated values.
Without ignoring the dishonesty suggested by hypocritical behavior, Jesus’ ministry and concern is focused elsewhere. Jesus is concerned about the restoration of right relationships, of making the daily interaction of people life-giving instead of life-draining. Most people think of religious instruction or activity as a self-improvement activity, and under such an assumption other people become a means to an end: look upon me God and how much more holy I am today—I gave an offering, I helped my neighbor, I sacrificed. Jesus wishes his followers to use their eye to see differently—that the neighbor is worthy, not as a means to an end, not as raw material for the project of the self, but as worthy in and of themselves. The love and care that must grow when attention turns away from the self toward others in turn starves hypocrisy.
Today, try to turn your eye away from what you are doing—even from what you are doing in sin—and turn it toward the wonder of what God is doing, the possibility of what your neighbor is doing. Don’t let your eye be blinded by “I.”
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks