Then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples: “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. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Matthew 23:1-4
In this passage, Jesus said something very interesting to his followers. He told his listeners to “obey everything they (teachers and Pharisees) tell you to do, but do not do as they do”. This was both an indictment of the Pharisees, and also a warning that just because the Pharisees were hypocrites, it did not give permission to the people to disobey the law or not seek after God.
We see so many people today who are looking for an excuse to not follow the hard road that Jesus set out before us. People will point out the flaws of a pastor, the wrong behavior of “church people”, or some other perceived hypocrisy (and indeed, there is plenty of hypocrisy present) in order to justify their own failed walk with Jesus.
Teachers have a high calling, and all of us have the responsibility to care for our fellow travelers on this earth. Unfortunately, there are times that all of us fail, to some degree or another, in this calling. I note in verse 4 of this passage, Jesus says, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” This means to me that the Pharisees were quite ready and able to point out the heavy burdens of the law and the times when people failed to conform. They also failed, however, to give people practical tools to help in the journey, and they showed no grace when people failed. The essence of Christ’s message is grace.
Yes, we will fail to live up to even our own standards, let alone God’s standards; yet God loves us and forgives us as we are willing to come to Him to ask for forgiveness. Our job is to be examples of grace and vessels of it as we minister to other people.
Prayer: Lord, we all have the tendency to miss the mark, just like the Pharisees, and we thank you for your sublime grace. Help us to extend it to others today, Amen.