The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. Matthew 23:2-3
The gospel for today is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it is directed to both his disciples and the crowds. This was a message Jesus intended for all to hear, not just the masses or His closest followers. Additionally, this sermon was not explained in private to his disciples, so we can take it at face value. There is no subtext we need to look for. This leads to the another interesting point: we are told to, “observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” The Greek word translated as ‘“observe” is tēreō, or to attend carefully. Note this does not say blindly follow. Jesus is instructing the crowds and His disciples to attend carefully to what their leaders say. He then goes on to give all of the reasons we should not follow their example.
So how does this apply to us in 2017? There is no lack of Pharisees (i.e. people more than willing to tell everyone how we should live and behave) in our world today. And, as in the time of Jesus, “their works are performed to be seen,” and “they love places of honor…” But often they speak wise words. Jesus exhorts us to attend to their words, but discern their actions. There is wisdom to be found all around us. But we must pay careful attention to the full message. Love of one’s country is admirable, but not to the exclusion of the refugee. We should have care for the sensitivity of others, but not to the total exclusion of opposing voices.
My prayer for myself today is that I listen with an open heart to all that is presented to me, while at the same time discerning with the help of the Holy Spirit the actions I am being called to take.
Talib Huff is a volunteer and presenter at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.