There are lots of folks bashing the Christian church. There is no end to the calls against Christian hypocrisy, arrogance, and what often appears to be a total lack of living out the life of the one Christians are suppose to follow. What to do? Get in line.
In his series, Who Is This Man, John Ortberg makes it clear that no one put the church in its place like Jesus. He was the first, and I would add the one closest to the matter as well as the most qualified, to speak into the hearts of men.
It’s so easy to point the finger and judge. It’s an entirely different story to commit to living the kingdom life Jesus invites us to. Even before Jesus blasts the religious leaders of his day with the list of woes, below, he tells the crowd, The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
What!? I have to do what they say even though they don’t practice it!? Come on, Jesus! Cut me some slack here, buddy! Can’t I just call them names and stuff. You mean I’m suppose to practice submission, prayer, humility and all the other stuff you taught and clarified even though my teachers don’t!?
I can imagine Jesus’ succinct response. Yes.
We can be upset that the Church is broken in many ways. However, we can take comfort in what Tim Keller calls the self-correcting measures built right into Christianity. In short, the church has a way of working these things out.
We can also get in line behind the guy that started it all. We can discover his compassion and empathy for people, his humility, his strength, his power, and his love for God. All of it is available to us. As for those teachers who do not practice what they preach, and who put “cumbersome loads” on people’s shoulders, Jesus says this:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Yikes – okay then. “Woe,” as Ortberg notes, implies divine judgment. Jesus was making it clear that the hypocritical actions by those that profess to know and teach about God will not go unnoticed. Put another way, God’s got this. For now, let’s stop pointing fingers and do our own dishes.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson