Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt
Read Matthew 23:1-18
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
More thoughts for meditation
Yesterday, we looked at how Jesus offered Martha a new view of herself. He offers the Pharisees a new view of themselves, too. From this religious “party” many teachers and leaders arose in the time of Jesus. They saw themselves as righteous before the Law of Moses, and this resulted in their tendency to make a show of their religious practice. They are stuck putting on a show all the time because they have this view of themselves with its resulting need to look as good as they expect themselves to be.
It is easy to see the Pharisees as the villains of the New Testament. They do get it wrong. But we miss an important warning from Jesus to all of us if we simply categorize them as villains. They are caught in religious practices that blind them to the truth of their own real needs. Their religious practices have a lot to do with how they see themselves as securing a position in their world by making and keeping laws. They are do-it-right-ers. They miss God standing right in front of them offering abundant life. Their rigid view of right/wrong and of God as a right/wronger blinds them. They can’t let go of their rules and this toxic view of themselves as people who are gifted and righteous.
Our religion can become a trap if we let ourselves get stuck in a limited view of ourselves and God. Our religious practice can’t be about being right or about living out our own rules. The Pharisees got stuck with a show instead of a real relationship with God. They were lost in their own performance of themselves.
Suggestions for action
Pray: Help me see where I serve myself and my own rules of right/wrong instead of serving You, O God. Search me and know me and if there are twisted ways that I see myself or You, please change my heart so I see You and worship in Spirit and truth.
We were praying Francis of Assisi’s breath prayer yesterday, “O God, who are You and who am I?” Pray this prayer slowly again today. Take a slow walk in your neighborhood and pray this little prayer with every step.
If you are brave enough and have a close enough friend, ask them where they think you might be seeing yourself innaccurately. Our friends often know these things about us, but they don’t like to say anything — they know such revelation hurts others as much as they fear the truth hurting them! The question, “Where you you think I might have blinders on? What do you think I don’t like to see about myself, others or the world?”