- Joshua 3:71-17
- Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
- 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
- Matthew 23:1-12
What a contrast between the kinds of leadership presented in today’s two New Testament readings. Paul emphasizes how he, Silas, and Timothy strived for humility: they tried not to be a burden to anyone, they sought to comfort and encourage those they visited, and they acknowledged that the word they brought was not their own but God’s. Jesus speaks of Pharisees who are the opposite – placing heavy burdens on people’s shoulders, preaching what they don’t practice, and looking for recognition.
Jesus stressed the virtue of humility and directs scathing criticism to the leaders he calls hypocrites. Chapter 23 of Matthew should not be regarded as a balanced critique of Pharisaism as a whole. Matthew was writing for the early Church and was probably concerned that any institution can fall into the trap of “saying” without “doing.” The chapter thus represents warnings for Church leaders throughout history as well as Jesus’ judgment on the hypocrisy of his time.
Followers of Jesus will model a different way: all members of God’s family are equals; no one may claim authority over others as a teacher. (In Matthew’s time, scribes were officially called rabbi, meaning teacher, father, or master, vv.8-10).
As we gather for worship and prayer, remember that we are called to be humble servants – seeking justice for the oppressed and welcoming all people to share the banquet of life with us.
- Compare Matthew 23:2-4 and 11:28-30 of a few weeks ago. What is the burden that Pharisees lay on the people? In what ways is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light in comparison? What burden are you carrying now that is too heavy? How does Jesus’ advice suggest a way to lighten it?
- What kinds of leaders, both lay and ordained, are we?
- Do we place heavy burdens on people who visit our churches, expecting a certain look or behavior?
- Are there unwritten codes about what it takes to be a good member?
- Do we look to be named and recognized?