Today I heard something on the radio; it was an excerpt from an upcoming discussion they were going to have. It was about why young adults are leaving the church today. They played a few responses which all boiled down to people not wanting to be told what to do. Unfortunately I missed the discussion, but it did get me thinking and the first thing that came to mind was Matthew 23.
Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
When we read the bible it’s easy to forget that it is all relative to us today, it is written for all of us regardless of whom, where and when we are. In Matthew 23 Jesus is really letting the scribes and Pharisees have it but what He is also saying is that it’s not about us and it’s not about religion and if we make it about either it can morph into elevating ourselves and what we can do for ourselves rather than for God or our neighbors. It’s not about us, or how much wealth and power we can accumulate. It’s simply about the two greatest commandments; Love God and love your neighbor in all that we are and have.
We have heard about how people these days have a sense of entitlement about them. I think it is easier and even truer to simply say they are selfish. We could discuss how putting ourselves first is idol worship. Do you think that Jesus wants us to be focused on finding more ways for us to be happy and successful? I think Jesus wants us to be people who are filled with joy and who are doing the best we can but it should not be what we are about or what we are focusing on. We should be looking for ways to bring others joy and help them to do the best they can.
Jesus didn’t just criticize the faith of the scribes and Pharisees; he showed them and us what real love, humility and what loving others looks like. The manifestation of Faith that is Christ’s was shown by, not serving himself, by not looking to His own happiness, it was shown upon a cross and then a few days later Jesus shares the words of Matthew 23 with us.
All too often our first actions or thoughts are for ourselves and our own concerns. We make sure we take care of those that matter most, unfortunately that is ourselves. When we continually put ourselves first, the cost is high.
Jesus has shown us authentic love, which is selfless and He wants us to share that with others. Jesus was beaten, tortured and executed not for Himself but for God and for us. He loved us with His life and His death and that is what he wants us to do.
The funny thing is when we love others and we are able to help bring them alongside of us in all the joy that Christ gives us and they are doing the best they can. We end up focusing on them and not on ourselves.