Friday, January 7, 2011

For the Greatest must be the Servant of All

Matt. 23:1-12 NLT  
   1  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
    5  “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
   8  “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Pride in one's position is such a struggle, both for people with position and people without but who wish they had position.  There is this longing for thinking that one is more important to other people, more important THAN other people. Some people come right out and use titles from their academic accomplishments, their elected positions, or their family status. Others are more subtle and manipulate circumstances so that others are 'trained' to use such titles. But all of it is just the myth of self-importance. There is only one important entity in the universe and that is God. He made it all. He provided for the recovery from our fall into sin. He planed an eternity that we do not deserve but that He wants to grant because of His great love. Yet, rather than humble ourselves before others and submit to Him, we cling to our false illusions of greatness, position, power, and influence.

I Have to wonder if Jesus was actually condemning the Pharisees here in this passage as much as he was expressing righteous anger at them for their failure to learn from all He had taught them, and their clinging to false righteousness, false, perceptions of importance, and false illusions of superiority. I see him scolding them as a parent disturbed at a child having undertaken a terribly wrong decision. I see his words as measured with increasing focus on the main point-- there is only one righteous person worthy of recognition and that one is God. You and I, regardless of our circumstances, high or low, should not seek personal praise because of it. And when it comes involuntarily from others we should express the gratitude to our Lord for making possible whatever it was that brought such praise in your direction. He has more to say in the rest of this passage about those who cling to self-righteousness and how much they walk in danger. We will look more into that another time.

For now, Let's be agreed to humble ourselves and serve the Lord by serving others without seeking recognition.

Your servant in His love

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