Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. 5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ 8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The Pharisees desire to feel important and valuable led to the first trap:
- Seeing church as a place where OTHERS should change.
Jesus said the Pharisees were prone to “…tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Matthew 23:4. They saw worship as a place to pass judgment on others, instead of seeing their own sin. Now before we pass judgment on the Pharisees we need to recognize that we are all prone to seeing the sins in others while being blind to our own. You know how that works, you are sitting in church listing to a sermon and you think to yourself man that was a great message I just wish that Bob had been here to hear it. What we are really saying is there are those who are failing in their faith and need to hear the Word but it’s not us because we have it all together. Jesus confronted this self-righteous attitude, calling it sin. So why did the Pharisees do this? Because it made them feel powerful, righteous and holy because compared to others they felt better than everybody else. So how do we sidestep this trap so that it doesn’t trip us up, first recognize it as sin, and second we need to commit to applying all Biblical warns to ourselves first. We need to consider how we should be obeying the Bible before we ever consider applying it in the lives of others. As Pastors, we need to be careful that we are practicing what we preach and not just preaching principles we never apply. When we practice the passage in our own lives instead of passing judgment on others we protect ourselves from tying heavy loads onto the shoulders of others that we don’t care about ourselves. We need to be careful not to condemn others for things that we ourselves are guilty of. The second trap that the Pharisees fell into was:
- Serving to be seen
Verse 5-6 says, “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.” We all struggle with wanting to be seen, and it starts at a very early age. Just listen to little children, who often say “look at me, look at me.” This is where we have to check our motive for ministry, why are we serving is it because we love the Lord or because we love the looks? If we are not careful we will become people who love the limelight more than we love the Lord. Now we need to remember that anytime anyone serves to be seen they are not only seen by others but also by God. And you can be assured that the Almighty will be appalled, that we would attempt to use HIS worship to show off. So how do we protect ourselves from this temptation? We need to remember who we are serving, so let me ask you are you making ministry about serving or about self? We also need to remember the purpose of praise, it’s about God’s glory not ours. That means its imperative that we cultivate a humble heart and we become a conduit of praise instead of a consumer of praise. So let me ask you, are you in it to reflect God’s glory or receive the glory. Corrie ten Boom once told a friend, “… people thank me so much and it used to worry me because I didn’t want to get a big head. So I began to collect those compliments like flowers. ‘Thank you,’ I’d say. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And then at the end of the day, I’d kneel down and I’d say, ‘Here You are Jesus, they’re all Yours.'” She learned to give God all of the glory. What about you are you giving God all of the praise or just part of it and holding back the rest for you? I’m always amazed at pastors who think they are superstars based on the sermons that they preach when in reality they have such great material to work with. If their preaching is based on the bible then the one who deserves the applause is the author. The third trap is:
- Trying to use worship as a way to gain a reputation.
Jesus said of the Pharisees: “They love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ 8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.” The temptation to seek power, position or prestige in the church is a very real problem. If we don’t have the proper perspective when it comes to our self-worth we can end up trying to use God to gain those things instead of giving God the glory. It’s here that Jesus addresses the trap that comes when we are tempted by titles. Many preachers are referred to as reverend and while it is ok to be respectful of the position of pastor we have to be careful that we don’t revere the person. To “revere” someone means to hold them in awe. The only one who deserves to be held in awe is the Almighty, as Isaiah declared: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another…” Isaiah 42:8 and in Isaiah 48:11, “…I will not yield my glory to another.” If we are not careful our position will get in the way of our praise. When you know whose you are you don’t need power or prestige or a “reputation” to feel significant and special. And if we do, it’s a sign that we’ve got an ego problem. Maintaining a proper perspective will protect you from the poison of pride. We need to remember that serving in God’s kingdom is a privilege, not a position. That it is an honor to serve; we don’t serve to be honored. What about you are you like the Pharisees trying to use worship as a way to gain worth or are you using it to give glory to God?