The following is a reflection on Matthew 23:1-12, the Gospel lesson appointed for October 30th, 2011 according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 26, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Hebrew Bible Lessonfor the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the lessons of the day.
In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus may be hammering the scribes and Pharisees, but what he says is just as relevant to us today: it’s not about me.
The criticisms that he levies are all about the ways religion can morph into something that is more about elevating ourselves, than about what we can do for God or our neighbor.
As I’ve said before,
The faith that Jesus taught has immediate implications. It’s about today, and it’s about tomorrow. To hijack the message of Jesus and turn it into getting us something at some time down the road is to turn Christianity into a narcissistic cult. And that’s the very opposite of the faith that Jesus teaches. It’s not about us. It’s not about accumulating wealth nor stability for ourselves, it’s about us loving God and our neighbor with all we have and with all we are.
Going to Hell, Getting Saved—page 146
The faith of Jesus is about finding ways to serve, and searching for ways to be a servant—to live as a servant.
Of all the things that concerns me about the Church and the Christian Faith today, the thing that scares me the most is the foundation of selfishness that has become a core principal. As if what Jesus wants us to be centrally concerned with is finding more and more ways for us to be happy, successful, and “become a better you.”
Now, I DO think that Jesus wants us to be people who are filled-to-overflowing with joy and be the best person we can be…but it’s not supposed to be something that we’re spending time focusing on. We’re supposed to be finding ways to bring others joy. We’re to be finding ways to help them be the best they can be.
And, the thing is, that if others are living that kind of life along with us, while we’re focusing on their joy, they will be looking after our own.
When the Christian faith is really and truly lived out in community everyone is a winner, and God is praised and exalted.
But, when our first inclination in to isolate ourselves in our own cares and concerns, and take care of “#1” first and foremost, we actually all lose a lot.
Including the faith of Jesus.
The faith of Jesus that was manifest—not in serving himself, or looking after his own self-preservation or happiness—but the faith of Jesus that was manifest on the cross, just a few days after Jesus said these words in Matthew 23.
He didn’t just criticize the faith of the scribes and Pharisees with words, he showed them, and us, what real love, humility, and service looks like.
There, Jesus demonstrates the exact same selfless, genuine, and authentic love that he demands of us. He was flogged, mocked, tortured, and executed for God and for us, not for himself. It wasn’t some selfish ego-maniacal stunt to gain fame and fortune. He loved God and us with his life and his death, and that is exactly what he asks of us.
Going to Hell, Getting Saved—page 70-71