Trick or Treat is today (Oct. 30), but I doubt any of you dressed up as a minister. (If you did, then let me know!) In the Bible, there were Jewish ministers called Pharisees, who were teachers of the law and taught in the synagogue where the people went to worship God back then. Jesus was not very complimentary to the Pharisees because He knew that most of what they did was so others would see them and think how great they were. They loved to have a special seat of honor in the synagogue, and they especially liked it when people called them Rabbi which means master or teacher. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 23: 2-3, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” They cared more about showing off and being revered than about loving and teaching the people about God. Then in Matthew 23:12, Jesus went on to say, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
What did Jesus tell the people there to do about teachers like these? You might think He would say, “Don’t listen to them! You don’t have to do what they say.” But Jesus didn’t. He said, “Obey them and do everything they say. But do not do what they do, because they do not practice what they preach.” It wasn’t that the rules were wrong, but they were doing them for all the wrong reasons – to honor themselves, not God.
Has anyone ever said that to you: “Practice what you preach?” If they have, it might have hurt your feelings, but it is good advice. When it comes to living the Christian life, we need to make sure that we mean what we say and that we aren’t just doing what we think makes us look good or show off as Christians. All the honor and glory should go to God, not to us. (Remember that from last week’s article?) Jesus warned us that this could happen for any of us. The Bible teaches us that if we are too proud and think too highly of ourselves, we are headed for a fall just like the Pharisees. On the other hand, if we are humble, and realize that it is through God’s strength that we are able to do great things, we will be given a place of honor in the kingdom of God.
Let’s make sure we don’t get all puffed up with ourselves as we work for the Lord, but practice our Christianity with the right attitude of helping and serving God and His people. We will be much happier when we do and eternally blessed for it too
Let’s say our prayer for the week. Dear Father, it is important for us to tell others about Jesus and His love for them, but help us to remember that it is even more important for others to see the love of Jesus in us. Help us to not become too impressed up with our own importance. Remind us that whatever abilities we have are a gift from You and that You are the one who deserves the praise! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.