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Respect the seat, please, but don't copy the hypocrisy

Rev. Enoch Thompson| August 3, 2023 | Matthew 23:1-4


²"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. ³So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Matthew 23:2-3 (NIV)


I do not know if you have ever been faced with the challenge of a leader whose works do not match their words, especially in the context of the Christian life. This poses a considerable challenge to the followers, who are either misled to copy the wrong behaviour and attitudes of the bad leader or are thrown into confusion as to what to do.

The Lord Jesus needed to clarify the question of authority in matters of spirituality, as in all other domains of human life. He needed to do this before opening the bandages to show what hypocrites the scribes and Pharisees were. The community of faith must have designated leaders, and there are people who one way or the other have become religious leaders, but do not show the character transformation that should go with their faith declaration or their positions in the community of believers. They play roles that are intended to serve as an example and to foster the total welfare of the members of the community of believers, yet they fall short of it in many ways.

The Lord sets a principle out in clear terms for our guidance. When a person occupies a leadership role as an appointed representative, we are to give them full regard, for the sake of the good office they occupy, in spite of their hypocrisy.

A distinction must be made between the correct teaching offered by the bad leader and the bad leader and between their right teaching or administrative capabilities and their bad character.

In Romans 13 the Apostle Paul urges believers to be subject to the ruling authorities even though they were non-Christian and sometimes antagonistic to the Christian faith. Such obedience makes for social and organizational orderliness, which is necessary for progress and development.

The other option for followers with morally inconsistent leaders is to rebel against them and create confusion in the community. The instruction given by the Lord here is, when you feel revulsive with a hypocritical leader, submit to them in the right things they teach because you respect the office they occupy. However, the Lord is very clear, “. . . do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Matthew 23:3 (NIV).


When you find yourself in a dilemma because of a leader who is inconsistent with their morality and spirituality, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just make sure you don’t jump into the bathtub with them!


Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry if at any time and by any means I have caused anyone to be confused when my behaviour and speech have not matched my Christian claims. Please help me to align properly. I pray that the Church will have leaders that walk the talk and do not cause confusion among those who seek the Kingdom of God. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.



DAILY word study - PRACTICE In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus instructs His followers to observe and obey the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees but warns against imitating their actions. He points out their lack of genuine practice of what they preach. This passage underscores the significance of consistent and authentic practice in our faith journey.

The call to "practice" extends beyond mere knowledge or verbal proclamation. It involves the intentional and consistent application of God's principles in our daily lives. We are challenged to align our beliefs with our actions, allowing our faith to permeate every aspect of our existence. Just as a musician refines their skill through diligent practice, our faith grows stronger as we continually apply and embody the teachings of Christ.

The Greek word used for "practice" in Matthew 23:3 is "ποιέω" (poieo), which carries the meanings of "to make, to do, to produce, to perform, to commit." It emphasizes active and purposeful engagement in carrying out an action. The root word conveys the idea of creating or bringing something into existence through deliberate effort.

In the context of this passage, "ποιέω" emphasizes the practical application of religious teachings. It invites us to actively live out the truths we profess. Just as a skilled craftsman creates a work of art through meticulous effort, we are called to craft a life that reflects our faith in action. This entails a continuous commitment to aligning our conduct with our convictions, transforming knowledge into lived experience.

As we meditate on "practice" within the context of Matthew 23:2-3, may it inspire us to earnestly engage in the intentional and purposeful application of God's Word. Let our daily actions be a living testament to the transformative power of faith put into practice.

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