(Focus texts include: Matthew 23:1-12, Psalm 107, Micah 3v5-12)
I was very surprised and amazed at the words of Jesus in this passage, especially reading them from the New Living Translation. He was very direct and sharp, as he gave out what I consider a stern rebuke which is also applicable for us today. I actually marvelled at how much of our current religious world I see in these verses.
Let’s take a closer look – Jesus, speaking to the crowds and his disciples, says: “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practise and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach”. (VS2-3 NLT)
The religious leaders (teachers of religious law and Pharisees) are the ones that had received proper schooling in the law of Moses, they knew it back to front and could supposedly answer any questions relating to it; specialists in the law. It is very sad to see the way they use their knowledge and expertise with regard to the people that they are supposed to be leading and be exemplary to. Jesus clearly shows that, in leading people, our job and purpose is to point everyone to God and to himself, because as he says in v9, only God in heaven is our true spiritual Father. While we do call our pastors and leaders “father” today, it becomes really unfortunate if when we assign them the power and authority that only belongs to God. It is as if they take on the role of God in our lives. Jesus challenges these attitudes outright and openly.
A few significant points I see in this passage:
- A sharp rebuke from Jesus to leaders in the church who assume the role and position of God in the lives of the people. He did not beat about the bush, or call it something it was not.
- Part of the purpose of religious leaders is to take people and lead them to Christ, and not be the answer themselves. When people are in need, or are oppressed, they turn to ‘those who know’, the experts who can interpret and advise and assist to resolve. Instead of giving hope and helping respond to needs of the people, they sometimes actually add to their difficulties or challenges
In Micah 3v5-12, we clearly see how false prophets reward those they benefit from, and how they make life difficult for those who do not bring them any gifts and so on. Again we see the sense of how people get misled and how those without, the needy, actually gain nothing from these false prophets. It clearly states that such wrong dealings in the name of God will come to an end. God sees! And He will stand up for them. Truth will be exposed. Micah was bold like Jesus and challenged the false prophets.
Psalm 107 also shows that the day of the wicked is coming and yet God’s promise endures for his own.
The warning which Jesus gives the crowd and his disciples about the religious leaders actually is a stand for the needy, who seek help from the wrong people, who just exploit them. It is a love action, compassion for his own.
So, part of our purpose today is to stand up and speak courageously against wrongs around us and this ican include the wrongs of religious leaders leading people astray. To restore hope, faith, belonging, love, compassion etc. We can be assured of God’s presence in actions like these, and while we may not necessarily be popular, we are being godly in responding to needs around us.
To think about:
So we need to ask ourselves, do we have tendencies towards lifting ourselves more than we should in the way we carry ourselves about, in our roles in society, at work, church….etc?
Do we help relieve oppression or do we add to it in our actions?
Are we bold to speak up against wrong? If we are somehow not being heard as we do so, what can we change in our responses so we actually get heard? How can we repackage our message in order to be heard? Is it time for change in strategy?
May God help us to be those that will courageously point people to Him whatever the circumstance may be!
Written By: Ms. Minenhle Moyo; Acting Team Leader Family Impact; Trained Churches, Channel of Hope Facilitator