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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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Jesus wants us to see the eternal principles behind the laws

Jesus wants us to see the eternal principles behind the laws

Jesus condemns the religious leaders of his day for making religion a show for others to see.

Jesus was always interested in the principles behind the laws. Jesus condemns the Scribes and Pharisees for worrying about all the rules and regulations and forgetting their purpose.

All Ten Commandments are based on two great principles. The first is reverence – reverence for God, for God’s name, for God’s day, for the parents God has given to us. The second principle is respect – respect for human life, for a person’s possessions, for their personality, for their good name, for oneself. These principles are eternal.

The Scribes and Pharisees’ whole outlook on religion had one fundamental defect. By creating thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations, they made religion an intolerable burden.

Here is a good test to find out whether a religion is true. Does it act like wings to lift a person up, or like deadweight to drag a person down? Does religion bring joy to a person or sorrow? Does religion carry a person, or does the person have to carry it? Whenever religion becomes a matter of burdens and prohibitions, it ceases to be true religion.

They also turned religion into show business. If religion consists in obeying countless rules and regulations, it becomes easy for people to “show” everyone else how well they fulfill those regulations, and how pious they are. Jesus selected certain actions and customs that the Pharisees displayed as their piety.

Jesus said, “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.”

The phylacteries were little leather boxes that devout Jews wore on their wrist and forehead. These little boxes contained key scripture passages. These men wore large boxes, to draw attention to themselves.

The Pharisees liked to be given the principal places at meals, on the left and on the right of the host. They liked the front seats in the synagogues.

In Palestine the children and unimportant people occupied the back seats. The front row seats were reserved as places of honor. The most honored seats of all were the seats of the elders, which faced the congregation. When the Pharisees sat there, everyone could see them and notice the false air of piety.

The Pharisee also liked to be addressed as Rabbi and to be treated with the greatest respect. They claimed greater respect than that which was given to parents, for they said, one’s parents give ordinary, physical life, but a person’s teacher gives eternal life. They even liked to be called father as Elisha called Elijah (2 Kgs. 2:12) and as the fathers of the faith were known.

Jesus insists that Christians should remember that they have only one teacher – and that teacher is Christ. The Christian has only one Father in the faith – and that Father is God. Jesus is not saying that we should not call our teacher in school, “teacher,” or our priests, “father.” He is emphasizing that we have only one teacher and one father. We should never forget that!

The Pharisees wanted to dress and act in a way that draws attention to themselves. The real Christian should be willing to die to self so that if people see their good deeds, they may glorify not the person, but our heavenly Father. Any religion that produces showy displays of piety and pride is a false religion.

The 19th-century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, reminded us that in a church service, the presider, the choir, the homilist, the reader, the organist, and those of us just sitting in the pews are the actors, and God is the audience. God is watching.

In our everyday Christian lives, God is the audience. If we remember who the audience is, our lives will become magnificent acts of worship and living. And God will applaud.