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Religious Hypocrisy loves showmanship (Part 1; Beware of self on the throne)

Rev. Enoch Thompson| August 5, 2023 | Matthew 23:5-12


"Everything they do is done for men to see: . . . Matt 23:5a (NIV).


Modern-day mindset requires self-assertion. Coaching goes on as to how one could project a dominant image of themselves. I recently saw a video clip in which a career coach was showing a class of people how they could use the facts of themselves to sell themselves for higher acceptance. The young man being used to illustrate the principle was a pilot who had some eighteen years of experience. He was instructed to introduce himself as having been flying to close to two decades. That difference in presentation he was told will make a better impression in any conversation than just saying “I have been a pilot for eighteen years.” Self-assertion is good in a way to offset the depreciation of others that is carried out through gender differences, race, ethnicity, and other differences.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV):

¹⁴ "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. ¹⁵Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

However, for the Pharisees, they were obsessed with self-projection in their whole life and their religion. They did not seek to live out the demands of godliness because of the necessity of it and in the bid to glorify God. Their every act was an attempt to draw attention to themselves. They were now gods and must receive the praise. Their sense of importance came from their impressive dressing, the accumulation of titles and occupying high places in social gatherings or social discourse, being recognized by others, and being applauded. They wanted, even demanded that their works of religion be seen, commended, and commented upon in flowery terms by others. And they reached out to grab the recognition of humans in every situation, and by whatever means. Whatever they did, which looked good and seemed to work for the general good, was intended by them to project themselves as the best and most suited to be given recognition and veneration. The Lord Jesus rebuked this hypocritical attitude.


What motivates you in the things you do generally, but particularly in matters of religion and religious observance? Are you impressed by people’s impression of you more than God’s impression of you?

Beware of showmanship, especially religious showmanship.


Lord, please throw your searchlight on my heart, and help me judge the intentions and motives for the way I carry myself. If there is any element of unhealthy self-projection and a desire to be seen by people, then heal me with a sense of self-worth that is derived because I am conscious of your acceptance and love for me. Help me Lord to find my self-definition in you alone. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.


SHOWERS! BLESSINGS!! ___________________________________________

DAILY word study: PHYLACTERIES In Matthew 23:5, Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for their showy displays of piety: "Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long." Phylacteries were small boxes containing Scripture verses worn on the forehead and arm as a symbol of devotion. The exaggerated size of their phylacteries and tassels reflected their desire for public recognition.

This passage prompts us to reflect on the sincerity of our worship and devotion. Are our actions driven by a genuine desire to honour God, or are they tainted by a desire for praise from others? Jesus invites us to cultivate a heart of authentic worship that seeks God's approval above all else.

The Greek word used for "phylacteries" in Matthew 23:5 is "φυλακτήριον" (phylakterion), derived from "φυλάσσω" (phylássō), which means "to guard, to observe, to keep safe." The phylacteries served as a reminder to keep God's commandments close and to guard them in daily life.

The root study of "phylacteries" invites us to consider the intention behind our outward expressions of faith. Just as the phylacteries were meant to remind the wearer of God's commands, our actions should reflect a heart that diligently seeks to guard and observe God's Word. The focus is on internalizing God's truth and allowing it to shape our character.

As we reflect on "phylacteries" within the context of Matthew 23:5, may it prompt us to assess our motives and intentions in worship and devotion. Let us cultivate a genuine desire to honour God, ensuring that our actions align with a heart that treasures and guards His Word. ----

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