“So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
“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. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:3-12)
Jesus again exposed the hypocritical attitudes of the religious leaders. The Pharisees’ traditions and their interpretations and applications of the laws had become as important to them as God’s law itself. Their laws were not all bad—some were beneficial. Problems arose when the religious leaders (1) held that human rules were equal to God’s laws, (2) told the people to obey these rules but did not do so themselves, or (3) obeyed the rules, not to honor God, but to make themselves look good.
Usually Jesus did not condemn what the Pharisees taught but what they were—hypocrites. They knew the Scriptures but did not live by them. They didn’t care about being holy—just looking holy in order to receive the people’s admiration and praise. Today, like the Pharisees, many people who know the Bible do not let it change their lives. They say they follow Jesus, but they don’t live by his standards of love. People who live this way are hypocrites. We must make sure that our actions match our beliefs.
Jesus challenged society’s norms. To him, greatness comes from serving—giving yourself to serve God and others. Service keeps us aware of others’ needs, and it stops us from focusing only on ourselves. Jesus came as a servant. What kind of greatness do you seek? How will you give yourself in service to God’s Kingdom?