Hypocrisy: When Religion Destroys Relationships

In Sunday’s message, we heard Jesus pronounce seven woes toward the religious leaders of his day. Those indictments are in Matthew 23:13-39. What all had he seen that led him to speak so strongly? Those verses reveal much, but even more can be found in the earlier part of the chapter.

To Think About:

  • Read verses 1-4. Synagogues, even some public places, had a seat much as we might think of a judge’s bench. When you determine that someone has done something right or wrong, how willing are you to help them continue on their way? Are they thankful they’ve come across your path? Why or why not?
  • Read verses 5-7. Phylacteries were little boxes containing words of scripture and were tied to the head or arms. It was a way to literally obey God’s words to bind those words on your head and hands (Deut. 6:8). They don’t just wear boxes, Jesus said, but they make them extra wide so others would see them. The tassels were meant to be reminders to obey God’s commands (Num. 15:37-40). Jesus said they aren’t just worn, but they are extra long. In what ways have you done something to appear extra religious? Have you ever hung up a picture, calendar, or other wall decoration for that reason? Have you ever worn a shirt or hat with a Bible verse for that reason? In what ways are those all good ideas? In what ways might they be self-serving?
  • Read verses 8-12. The religious leaders Jesus was thinking of were very proud of their titles. Jesus tells us several of those titles. While there might not be anything wrong with such a term, what can be the problem when your title becomes your identity? As a follower of Jesus today, what are some names that you might use to draw attention to yourself more than to Jesus? How can you keep your humility in check in this area or any of the above areas?

To Pray About:

  • Tell God how thankful you are for his presence and his words.
  • Explain to God why you want to be noticed either for the good things you do or because you follow Jesus. Continue by asking him to help you know that your identity is found in him and in doing his work.
  • Ask God to forgive you for the times when you wanted the focus to be more on you than on him or other people.

To Live Out:

People are all around you at any given moment of the day. If they are not physically present, they may be reading something you texted or remembering something you said. Are they seeing who God is because of you? Are they hearing what he would say? Or are you standing between them and God? Choose to do what is just, merciful, and faithful toward God and others (Matt. 23:23).

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