Matthew 23:1-7, 12
“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 obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
There is an old saying that reflects what Jesus was getting at here: Do as I say, not as I do. How often do our actions reflect our Kingdom citizenship? How about our words…or even our thoughts?
The Pharisees were head over heels in love with themselves. I’m sure they even had a certain “strut” as they walked around Jerusalem, proudly displaying their uniforms and receiving the jealous and/or awestruck looks of their fellow Jews. They lived to be seen and admired. Come to think of it, they would do well on the “red carpet” at the Academy Awards! Their arrogance was legendary, as was their hypocrisy.
As Christians, our natural desire should be to let everyone else go ahead of us in line. We should be willing to eat last and then clean-up first. We should be the one holding the door open, despite how long the line is. We should be willing to sit in the back row so that others can have a better seat. We should be willing to do the work without any acknowledgment whatsoever. Beyond being willing, we should actually WANT to do these things, simply because we love others as ourselves.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). That passage always gets my attention. If God is opposing me, my situation is utterly hopeless. I’m toast. Finished. Sayonara. I don’t want to be that guy so I try hard not to be…and then it hits me: When I am living in the Spirit, I don’t have to try. It just happens. I give way to others (Phil 2:3). I pursue peace (Romans 12:18). I serve rather than expecting to be served (Mth. 20:28).
A Christian who willingly and joyfully takes last place in order to love others well is the one who will experience the words of that great old hymn…”and the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”