It was written, “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger,” (Matthew 23:1-4, NASB).
The hypocrisy and unbelief of the nation’s religious leaders, evidence in Matthew chapter 22, prompted a strong message from Jesus to the masses. He turned to those listening in the temples and began to speak. The religious leaders placed heavy burdens on the people, however, they were not righteous themselves. They loved places of honor and to be called Rabbi, which implied they were scholars and well educated people. However, Jesus was teaching the people that leadership positions should never be a goal of a believer, but should be viewed as having greater opportunities to serve others. Jesus also taught that those who exalted themselves would be humbled, but those who followed Him, devoting themselves to the service of others would someday be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
Now why is this important to us today? We have been taught to declare how much God has done for us and to proclaim it throughout our city(Luke 8:39). To a certain extent, all Christians are called to minister. Many will never hold positions of authority, but that is fine. We are to service the community in line with God’s word and that should be enough. If not, we can fall into the same pitfalls that Jesus warned us about. We are called not to be religious, but to be righteous. When Christians become religious, they start to put man-made laws before the teaching of God. Even though some of these laws can be beneficial, people can quickly become legalistic from them, because they want to look good in front of everyone else and say, “look I obey the rules.”
All Christians are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, whether they understand it or not. People watch and study the way we carry ourselves and must not fall into the same situation as the Pharisees. I remember when I was visiting Nevada and I went to do laundry. I started to speak to a man who worked there and just listened to him. After about an hour, he asked me what I was doing in Nevada and I told him that I was a traveling minister. He gasped and said that I was a nice person and that he could not believe that I was a Christian minister. He then went on and told me about a lot of bad experiences he had in the churches with people treating him like he was not good enough and then encounters with others that claimed to be Christian who were not honest or loving. So, he associated all Christians the same way. Those Christians that he encountered set him back in his walk with God and almost stopped his faith.
As Jesus challenged all of society’s norms in his time, we must be willing to do the same. True greatness comes from serving others and honoring God instead of ourselves. As we service others needs, it helps us from focusing only on ourselves. If Jesus came down as a servant, what is keeping us (Christians) from doing the same? When we fail in this basic principle as Christians, we not only harm ourselves by putting a separation between God and ourselves, but those around us watching us. Whatever we do is what they see Christians as. Are you reflecting Jesus or the fallen world that we live in?
I would like to end this devotional today with a prayer. I pray that every Christian will take some time today and reflect on themselves. Are we being good ambassadors of Jesus Christ or are we glorifying ourselves? Are we being legalistic looking for a position of authority over others, or are we trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ everyday of our short lives? I pray that we can find honest resolution for these questions and feel convicted in the areas of our lives that need to be improved. In this way, we can strive to continue to grow instead of getting comfortable in our current walk with Christ. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!