Text: Matthew 23:1-12 and Micah 3:5-12
In both these passages we find leaders of the faith community behaving in ways that make it necessary for a prophet, in the case of Micah, or Jesus, in the case of Matthew, to speak to/about them in very strong language. Micah tells the religious leaders that their behaviours will cause the downfall of Jerusalem, that they claim to have God on their side but have perverted God’s words and have resorted to bribery to do their jobs. ‘They cry “peace” when they have something to eat but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths.’ (Micah 3:5b)
In Matthew, Jesus tells his listeners that it is ok to listen to the teachings of the Pharisees but not to follow their actions as what they are doing is for show. That they ‘tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.’ (Matthew 23:4)
Declaring war on those with no food from a position of plenty, putting heavy burdens on the shoulders of others and doing nothing to lift them…. God was not pleased!
As I write this, I am also working on a workshop for congregational leaders on stigma and discrimination and I ponder… how often have we, as Christian leaders placed heavy burdens on the shoulders of others with the words we use or even in our actions and body language? How often have we, from a position of ‘being well fed’, of being confident in ourselves and not lacking for our own needs ‘declared war’ on those who are hungry either physically or spiritually?
Jesus concludes the passage in Matthew by reminding us of the divine order… that those who ‘exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted’. (Matthew 23:12) In God’s eyes we have one teacher, the Messiah so are all students together, we have one Father so are all brothers and sisters together.
To think about: What relationship do we have with those around us? Do we place heavy burdens on others? What does it mean to be students of the Messiah together, children of the one Father?