Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Don't Care 'Cause I'm All Right

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. – Matthew 23:2-3

A preacher told the story that it was Homecoming Week for a Christian College.  The local tavern put up a sign out front that said, “Bring your parents here for lunch.  We’ll pretend we don’t know you.”  In response, the college chapel put on their sign, “Bring your parents to service here.  We’ll pretend we do know you.” 

Jesus, in Matthew 23, tears into the religious leadership, but He starts out by instructing people to listen to what the scribes and Pharisees taught.  They were in a position of authority, sitting, as it were, in the place of Moses, as intermediaries between the revelation of the Law and the people of God.  These leaders were supposed to -- as Ezekiel says, help people distinguish between the holy and the profane.  By following what these experts in the Law said, a person should be able to live a life of righteousness pleasing to the Lord. 

The scribes and Pharisees, however, did not follow their own teaching.  Like our lawmakers today who are careful to exempt themselves from the restraints and restrictions of their legislative efforts, those Jewish leaders disingenuously found loopholes, excuses, and exemptions for their own unrighteous behavior.  One of the reasons James suggests that we should be careful about wanting to be teachers is that those who try to instruct others will be judged more severely (James 3:1).  Thus it is a bad idea to stand anywhere near most politicians.  Most of us couldn't hold the light for the elitists in Washington and Hollywood to hypocritize by.  

Nobody wants to be a hypocrite, but we should know what a hypocrite really is.  What it is not is someone who is not sure they are able or willing to follow Christ.  A hypocrite is not someone who attends church on Sunday after they have had a few drinks on Saturday.  A man only becomes a hypocrite when he tries to cover up or excuse his own actions while condemning others for the same thing.  A hypocrite is not a person who, having severely damaged his or her life through disobedience, speaks from experience and denounces those bad choices.  A hypocrite is not a person who fails and falls, who struggles, seemingly in vain, to conquer some habit or overcome some obstacle. 

I see hypocrisy as being nearly impossible for the truly humble, the meek, the contrite, and the broken.  Hypocrisy is an especially odious kind of arrogance.  If we see that God has been merciful and forgiving toward us, we are probably inoculated against hypocrisy, for we will want to be forgiving and merciful to others.  None of us are perfect, and the closer a saint gets to God and to perfection, the less inclined such a one is to brag about it.  The worst thing about certain ministers who have been guilty of egregious iniquity is not that they are sinners – who isn’t?  Rather, it was that they, like those to whom Jesus spoke, felt they had a special indulgence because of their knowledge and position. 

He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The righteousness of the saint is never his own.  It is possible that, in the sight of God, self-righteousness is the most repulsive thing there is.   

In the Garden, after Adam and Eve fell, they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves.  God demanded that they drop those leaves and clothe themselves in the skins of innocent animals, which God Himself slew.  This is the picture that condemns the one who is proud of and trusting in his own righteousness -- a fine fig-leaf suit he has sewn.  Only when we understand that Jesus was slain on our behalf, and we are, by grace, clothed in Christ can we be presentable to God and accepted by Him.  

(This is the Three Dog Night cover of a song written by Randy Newman and really has nothing to do with my post, except it is where I got my title.)

No comments: