Session 16: A Cup of Humility and a Slice of Humble Pie.

This is post #16 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.


Click here to listen to the podcast version of this blog!

Today’s Lectio Divina: “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons? You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.” Matthew 23: 23-32 (MsgB)


It’s very obvious from Matthew’s text that Jesus of Nazareth is vastly under-whelmed with the way church leadership is going about their business here in Jerusalem 33 A.D. Apparently, from the Master’s perspective, they’ve set up shop in the God-business only to have built a shoddy operation that leaves much to be desired.

Four times in nine verses, Jesus calls ‘em as He sees ‘em, summarizing this ugly situation this way:

You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds!

So much for mincing words or holding your tongue. Jesus is taking these guys to the woodshed, as my grandmother used to call it, giving them a verbal whipping that apparently is much deserved.

Eugene Peterson, in his Message Bible translation, does a masterful job of taking these Greek words that were used in writing our New Testaments and brings a frightfully colorful tone to the diatribe that Jesus spoke on this fateful day in Jerusalem. Each thought here in these nine verses should give us pause on how church leadership of our day needs to be on our toes so that we don’t repeat the same errors.

So, let’s do this.

Let’s take each section of Jesus’ complaints and look at each one a bit closer.

Complaint #1: You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

First of all, Jesus is saying that you can follow all the rules of religion (dotting i’s and crossing t’s) yet miss the underlying theme of everything you say that you believe. In other words, you can look really busy fulfilling all the commandments of God yet in your busy-ness completely overlook the basics of living a life of faith, hope, and love.

Complaint #2: You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

Secondly, Jesus points out that you and I can spend countless hours tidying up our image, making sure the outside world sees us at our best, yet all the while we’re ignoring the stinking rot that is wasting away our inner life.

Complaint #3: You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

Jesus uses a different word picture here, but basically is once again pointing out the obvious that human beings can spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours making sure our façade looks good, but fail miserably in tending to the true self that lies just below that shiny surface.

Complaint #4: You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You’re cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

Finally, Jesus points out the hideous pride of those who cluck their tongues and wag their fingers at others who’ve made mistakes while making outrageous claims about themselves, saying if they would have been in charge, the results would have been totally different.

My friends, I must be honest here and point out that I’ve experienced Christian leaders today preach on these passages in Matthew, calling out the sinful pride of these ancient Jewish leaders while never addressing the fact that we Christian leaders (and some of the political leaders we support in America) just might be doing the exact same things Jesus criticized in His day.

Hmm.

As I see it, maybe it’s time for a cup of humility, a plate of humble pie, and a whole lot of confession, seeking Christ’s forgiveness for those sins we have committed against Him, His Church, and the people of God.

My Prayer: Father God, it’s painfully obvious that we Christian leaders are guilty of the same pride and arrogance Jesus pointed out to church leaders in the first century. Our hypocrisy is evident to others, but sadly, we seem to have glossed over these basic truths. Now, it’s time to confess our sins, come clean of our shortcomings, and allow You to work on our behalf. Come, Spirit of God, cleanse and restore. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.

My Questions to Ponder: Where am I guilty of following legalistic details while ignoring the more important truths such as living a life of faith, hope, and love? Am I spending hours each day building up my external image while giving little attention to the inner care of my soul? Am I guilty of pointing my finger at those around me who’ve made mistakes, making sure everybody knows that if I were in charge the results would certainly be better?

So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?


Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. 

A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.

Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in this series…

1 thought on “Session 16: A Cup of Humility and a Slice of Humble Pie.

  1. Pingback: Session 15: Calling Out Fraudulence In Church Leadership. | The Contemplative Activist (TCA)

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