Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach… Everything they do is done for people to see… they love the place of honor… they love to be greeted with respect…”
As representatives of God, the teachers of the law knew and taught the scriptures. They occupied the same position of authority that Moses had over God’s people. And so Jesus told the crowd to... “Be careful to do everything they tell you.” Jesus recognized that the Word of God has authority in and of itself, even when the one teaching it fails to practice what they preach. But how many times have I ignored the clear instruction of scripture and bowed the knee to the example of someone I respected in a leadership position? A pastor, author, parent? Or even church culture?
What do the scriptures teach? This should be what dictates my behavior. And Jesus was very adamant that his disciples pursue a life of humility and servanthood; living for the glory of God rather than the praise of people. Verse 11: "The greatest among you shall be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled. And those who humble themselves will be exalted."
In an overly connected world, where self-promotion is accepted as the status quo and everyone is scrambling to post their everyday exploits on the latest, most popular application, Jesus’s words sting like a sharp rebuke. But is anyone listening? Of the Pharisees He said, “Everything they do is done for people to see.” They didn't love God. But they did love to create and promote an outward image of what they considered godly. They made their phylacteries extra wide and their tassels absurdly long. And then they sought out the places of highest visibility to show them off. Why? Because they loved to be seen and admired by people. In modern day vernacular, they lived for the most “likes” rather than the glory of God.
I find these words so applicable. And so deeply convicting. But how do I live them out in this day and age when it's become the norm for everyone all around the globe to have some type of online presence to promote themselves or their ideas? To question this practice for the Christian is like speaking an alien language. “What are you even talking about? Get with the program!” And I concede, everyone is doing it, from the Pope to my 80 year old mother-in-law. But I honestly struggle with it. I don’t want to stand before God one day and have Him say, “Everything you did was done not for me, but for others to see”.
I wonder what Jesus would do if He were alive today. And if He did participate in this modern practice, what would his Instagram and tweets look like compared to the Pharisees? It’s something to ponder and pray about. Which I often do, even as I write and post this on my very own personal website.
"Dear Lord, please give me wisdom and humility as I navigate this new world where an online presence has become normal for your people. May my presence always draw others into your Presence. Amen."