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Hypocrites burden other people with a heartless religion

Rev. Enoch Thompson| August 4, 2023 | Matthew 23:1-4


They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:4 (NIV)


One prevalent imagery the Bible uses to depict God is that of a good shepherd. The ever-popular Psalm 23 of King David, and the eloquent claims of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 10 are good examples of how godly church leaders are required to live their lives and to lead God’s people.

John 10:11-15 (NIV)

¹¹"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ¹²The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. ¹³The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. ¹⁴"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— ¹⁵just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.

The Lord Jesus Christ is a compassionate Saviour and a caring Master. Church leaders are supposed to be sympathetic caring and aiding towards their followers. Not so the hypocrites!

The Pharisees were bent on creating an impression of deep spirituality by imposing rigorous rules and demands upon their followers. The sad part is that these rules were not followed by themselves. Either because the rules are unrealistic or that they are additions to God’s Law which they brought in in the guise of strict spirituality. While the followers strained themselves to meet the requirements the leaders led an easy life which made a mockery of their followers. This also is hypocrisy and the Lord spoke hard against it.


Are you realistic in your demands and expectations of others in the matter of faith and practice? Do you demand of your children and subordinates standards of behaviour and performance that you are not willing to subject yourself to? Don't be a hypocrite. Come by the side of those who are struggling to keep up with the standards you set and be a supportive guide to anyone you lead.


Lord how we desire shepherds like you over your flock. Please raise leaders at home and in the Church who set realizable standards, demonstrate commitment to those standards, and hold up those who struggle to live up to the standards. Please deliver us from ungodly leaders who may know all the right things but have a wrong spirit. Please enable those of us in leadership positions to be people who lead by willing example and participating in the struggle. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.



DAILY word study - HEAVY LOADS Matthew 23:4 records Jesus' rebuke to the religious leaders: "They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." In this passage, Jesus addresses the burden of legalism and hypocrisy that the scribes and Pharisees imposed on others while avoiding such obligations themselves.

The concept of "heavy loads" extends beyond physical weight. It represents the emotional, spiritual, and psychological burdens that can result from rigid adherence to rules and external piety. Jesus' words remind us of the dangers of imposing unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others, rather than embracing the liberating grace and love of God.

The Greek word used for "heavy" in Matthew 23:4 is "βαρύς" (barus), which means "heavy, weighty, burdensome." It implies a sense of heaviness and difficulty. In the context of this passage, "barus" metaphorically refers to the oppressive religious requirements that burdened people's souls.

This root word study invites us to consider the weightiness of legalism and the contrast with Jesus' invitation to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30). The Pharisees burdened people with external regulations, while Jesus offered a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. The study of "barus" reminds us to seek a faith that is rooted in grace, love, and a genuine relationship with God, rather than a burdensome adherence to rules.

As we reflect on "heavy loads" within the context of Matthew 23:4, may it prompt us to examine our own approach to faith. Let us release the unnecessary burdens we may have placed upon ourselves and others, and instead embrace the freedom and rest that comes from following Jesus with an open heart.

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1 Comment

Victoria Opoku
Victoria Opoku
Aug 04, 2023

I love these devotional. The hands and feet sets one thinking and reflecting on God’s word. The teachings are deep, powerful and very helpful. Thank you and may God give you more grace and wisdom to continue.

Vicky O



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