Warning to the hypocrites

Jesus remained busy during his last days on earth. He continued to teach and rebuke, to heal and make waves. The religious leaders were getting more and more uncomfortable with his message. He was in their face, using parable after parable to warn them and rebuke them.

Finally after going back and forth with the Pharisees and the Sadducees (the religious leaders of the day) he addressed his disciples and the crowds that had gathered. He proceeded to warn them not to follow the examples of the hypocritical religious leaders. And whether we find ourselves in the position of teacher of the Word or student of the Word, we should heed these warnings still today.

• Don’t let God’s law be packaged in bundles of rules that weigh people down. It is meant to be a life-giving, redeeming gift.

• Real faith is not meant to impress anyone. Real faith should be drawing you to Jesus, not to flashy, arrogant people.

• God created us all equally. We shouldn’t put someone else on a pedestal (even if they’re standing on one). We all have the same teacher, the same Savior, Jesus Christ.

• Nobody on earth should take the place of God in our life. Save that authority for him.

• As Christians, we should never become a roadblock to God’s kingdom to someone else. Don’t let anybody convince you that they’ve got a better shot than you do. The door is open to anyone that accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

• Don’t be confused or corrupted by someone that tries to put their own spin on the gospel. It is not confusing. All people are sinful and need a Savior. God had that figured out since before time began. Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again. And he is the only way to eternity with God.

7. Don’t get caught up in all the little details that distract from the main point. Accept Christ and live. Deny Christ and die.

9. A “holy”and pure appearance does not always equal a righteous heart. God is more concerned that we get our heart right.

The Message paraphrase
(Matthew 23:1-28)

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them.

“The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.

Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds!

Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in.

…You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

…You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands?…A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

…You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.

Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semi-colons?

…You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony…Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

…You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

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