“Showing Off” Spiritually Is Stupid! – Luke 20:27-47

From my reading in Luke 20:27-47 in the One Year New Testament.

“Showing off” is a big part of our culture and has trickled in to our churches and ministries.

If we are not careful, pastors can become more worried about their Instagram and Twitter followers then their church members.

I have been tempted to to show off how my ministry “blowing up” at certain times and have also been tempted to be quiet sometimes when it was not going well. I think this is an issue that all ministry leaders are tempted with.

Spiritual showoffs were around even in Jesus’ time. Here’s what he said about them.

“Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.” Luke 20:45–47

The religious leaders were taking the glory only God deserves and trying to steal it for themselves.

They didn’t desire personal holiness, instead they sought public recognition in the following ways.

1. Paraded around in flowing robes – These were extra-long fancy white linen garments worn by religious leaders that set them apart from others.

Do you wear things to get attention from others?

2. Love Respectful Greetings – They love being greeted as they walked through the town.

Do you enjoy being called pastor or reverend or even the recognition of being a good servant?

3. Seats of Honor In The Synagogue and Banquets – They got the best seats in the house because of their position.

Do you love being treated special at Church or events?

4. Pray Long Pious Sounding Prayers – They make their prayers extra long in order to show off how spiritual they are!

When you pray are you really talking to God or are you trying to impress people?

All the while these men were cheating widows out of what little property they have! These men looked good on the outside, but were rotten to the core.

Attempting to steal God’s glory is one of the things God takes most seriously!

Jesus warns that these men will receive greater punishment because of their greater responsibility. Jesus’ brother James gives a warning to those of us in spiritual leadership…

“Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

The role of spiritual leadership is not something to be taken lightly and is certainly not to make us look good. It is to make Jesus look good!

As spiderman would tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. 

We should do what ever we can to keep from causing others to stumble, people’s eternity are hanging in the balance.

Are you ministering to make much of yourself or to make much of Jesus?

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How Fear Of What Others Think Paralyzes Us – Luke 20:1-26

From my reading in Luke 20:1-26 in the One Year New Testament.

Our culture makes us is obsessed with projecting an image of ourselves that looks good. Many people are paralyzed by fear because they want to make sure that what they are doing fits with the “status quo.”

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were very obsessed with what the people thought of them. They made sure to do the external religious things so that no one could question their reputation. In today’s passage, we see their actions being dictated by the crowds. 

They ask Jesus by what authority he did is work. Jesus turned the question around and ask by what authority did they think that John the Baptist did his work.

“But if we say it was merely human, the people will stone us because they are convinced John was a prophet.” Luke 20:6

They were more worried about pleasing the crowds than saying what they really thought.  

They were wrong to think that Jesus and John the Baptist were not from God, but in a way God used their fear in order to let Jesus minister for longer.

Again Jesus told a parable against the religious leaders and this was their reaction.

“The teachers of religious law and the leading priests wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the people’s reaction.” Luke 20:19

If you are worried about what “people” think, then you are a slave. So many of us let other people, often people we don’t even know, dictate our lives!

For the religious leaders the fear kept them from doing wrong, but so often for us the fear of others keeps us from doing right.

A very helpful verse in this regard is a proverb of Solomon,

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” Proverbs 29:25

Fearing what others think will trap you into a self-made prison. In the case of the Pharisees, this trap helped Christ finish his work because they had evil intent.

But for those of us who are Christians, fear of the crowds can stop us from serving God. Instead, Solomon tells us to trust the Lord and we will be safe.

Has fear of what others think stopped you from obeying God? 

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How To Know If You Are A Legalist – Mark 7:1-13

Reflection from my reading in Mark 7:1-13 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

When Tools Become Rules…

Jesus had a confrontation with the religious leaders about the Jewish ritual of ceremonial hand washing before eating. The religious leaders wondered by Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow this age-old tradition of hand washing. Jesus said…

 “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Mark 7:6–7

Jesus is saying that the religious leaders and their followers became so focused on human traditions that their hearts grew distant from God. When tools become rules, people’s priorities get mixed up.

When keeping traditions becomes more important than commands to love God and love your neighbor as yourself you die spiritually.

Is This God’s Law or Human Tradition?

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:8

How foolish is it to focus on tools set up by men when we have God’s commands! 

Jesus gives the example of how they were given the command to “Honor your father and mother” but instead of helping their needy parents they choose to donate their money to God.  

In other words they choose to look spiritual by doing a tradition when the right thing to do would have been to take care of their parents! Jesus said this about them..

“Thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:13

Ironically in their attempts to serve God they are disobeying God’s word! 

It is easy to point the finger at the religious leaders here without asking ourselves this question…

Have we over emphasized helpful tools to the neglect of the most important commands?

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How to Answer Controversial Questions – Matthew 22:1-22

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 22:1-22 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

It’s A Trap

The religious leaders were desperately trying to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. If you ever watch an interview of a pastor on TV then you know it inevitably becomes “stump the pastor” as the host throws out the toughest questions they can ask. In the same way, the religious leaders started with some flattery then asked him their tough question.

“And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Matthew 22:16–17

To Pay or Not To Pay… That is the Question 

The issue of taxes was one of the most controversial issues for the Jews, because they were being forced to pay taxes to a government that was oppressing them. Caesar was a pagan King who did not worship God and promoted many evil practices. In the minds of the Jews, to pay taxes was to contribute to that. It is interesting to note that the religious leaders and the Herodians (supporters of Herod) were teaming up on this question, because the followers of Herod likely supported taxes and the Jews largely did not want to pay taxes. Jesus saw through their trickery.

“But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” Matthew 22:18–22

Jesus saw through their trickery and answered shrewdly.

  • With a clear “Yes we should pay,” the jews would have been angry and perhaps he would have had a riot on his hands.
  • With a straight up “No,” his enemies could have reported to the Roman government that he was spreading anti-governement propaganda.

A Wise Answer

Jesus answered the question so wisely and that people were amazed! When he said, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, he was confirming that the Jews should pay the fair taxes that they owe to the government. But by saying “and to God the things that are God’s”, he is saying that God is the priority. That we should give our whole lives, our money and our hearts to God. This frustrated his enemies because they could not pin him down and make him say something that would get him in trouble. I will conclude with the principle that we can take away from how Jesus responded this controversial question.

His answer was clear enough to answer the heart of the issue, and vague enough not to be polarizing. 

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Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Matthew 21:23-46

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 21:23-46 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what predictions were made, the team that wins will be the Champion. Because actions trump words!

Two Types of People

Jesus tells a powerful story to the religious leaders of the day. Here’s my summary: A man told both of his sons to work in the vineyard. First, the older son said ‘no I won’t go’, but later changed his mind and went. Second, the younger son said, ‘Yes sir, I will’. But he didn’t go. Then Jesus asked them,

“Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:31

Prostitutes before Pharisees? 

Jesus told the religious leaders that the least respected people who humble themselves and choose to obey God would get into the Kingdom before the most respected who do not obey God.

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21:32

Though the religious leaders appeared to be following God, they actually refused to repent and respond to John the Baptist’s or Jesus’ teaching. Many of the prostitutes and tax collectors on the other hand changed their minds and believed in Jesus! 

Humble obedience is greater than prideful promises. 

From this passage we can learn that we should be careful that we are ACTUALLY responding to what God is commanding us instead of mearly talking about what we are going to do.

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