Today is all about hypocrisy vs humility. It takes quite a bit to make me lose my temper, and in fact I usually only do so with people I love, because those I don’t love aren’t worth the energy of me bothering. They probably don’t know me well enough to know they have offended me and so they get the cold treatment. I get coldly polite and will leave or ask them to leave. I save the yelling for those I actually love who should know better so if you get yelled at by me you can immediately know 2 things, The first is that I love you, the second is that you have probably done something incredibly inconsiderate, thoughtless or stupid, You will of course be forgiven eventually, because I love you enough to yell at you.
Our society is so caught up in the Baby Jesus of Christmas, “gentle Jesus meek and mild” view that to many it comes as an incredible shock to realize he grew up and was an adult bearded man with a passionate heart for doing his Father’s will and was absolutely capable of expressing anger, for the right reasons! In today’s gospel reading Jesus is disappointed and angry and expresses it in no uncertain terms. He yell’s at the Pharisee’s and teachers of the Law. This is a stinging tirade of condemnation and, many would say, abuse. There are no niceties, no political correctness, no “let’s have a listening process to sort out our differences”. There is challenge upon challenge, condemnation upon condemnation, insult upon insult. There is serious anger here. There is no way of envisioning this speech being delivered except with raised voice, with heightened emotion and probably with lots of fist pumping and finger pointing.
What has Him so angry? The hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The problem as I see it, is that as you go through the list of accusations he has against them, I see a lot of these very same things in some Churches today. He says of the Pharisees, "they do not practice what they preach.” They put themselves in the seat of Moses and claim his authority. They demand that the people keep law after law, after law – many of which were not in the Law of Moses at all – and in that way place this heavy load of obedience on men’s shoulders. But they’re not willing to do it themselves. They’re not willing to live it out themselves. And they’re not willing to give any assistance to those who are burdened. They want the trappings, power and respect/status of the position of a leader in the Church and don’t really care about what actually matters to God, justice, mercy and faithfulness. Are you angry about outward signs of being religious when the more important commands of God are ignored?
I will not criticize any denomination or individual church leader, it is for God to Judge, not us. If you feel you are not growing in the Lord, or being fed by the word at the church where you fellowship - prayerfully find a different church.
Our Old Testament reading today shows the value of humility. Ruth was humble, a foreigner in a strange land, she behaved with humility and tried to fit in with their ways, caring for her mother-in-law above and beyond what would have been expected of her. Her humility was rewarded and she was blessed by God.
This time the Old Testament is the carrot and Jesus righteous indignation is the big stick. Are you looking for wealth, power and praise from your position or to make a difference, to serve others? Whether in the world or the Church. As Jesus says, we need to remove the plank in our own eye before getting rid of the speck in our brother’s. We all need to be considering our own hearts. Rather than seeking to lead, seek to serve for love of the Lord, not for money, status, or respect. Not so others will speak well of you, but so God will.