There is a series of “Woes” in the bible that really hit home with me. Jesus is essentially calling out all the religious elite of the day. He begins each statement with “woe to you,” calling the Pharisees “blind guides” and “hypocrites.” After reading it I was scared of how, we as the church, have come to resemble the Pharisees. I don’t want to be like them. I want to be in a constant state of dependence on Jesus. Yet, if I am honest with myself I often can relate to points in my life that show I’ve become a Pharisee.
I want to write a series of blogs about these seven woes that Jesus speaks about. How I have struggled with them and how I think we as a church today can overcome the mistakes of our past.
Matthew 23:1 -11 is Jesus laying down the foundation for Him to lay waste to the Pharisees. Jesus says that they lay heavy burdens on the people without being willing to carry the weight themselves. Then states how the Pharisees love to get the spotlight from the people and get some sort of celebrity status.
Jesus calls them out on their misguided behavior. Their actions lifted themselves up while belittling everyone else. It drew the attention on themselves rather than shepherding the people of Israel. They spoke and acted in a manner that pointed to them and not to God. Jesus then goes on to speak to them the seven woes.
The first one reads like this in Matthew 23:13
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
This one hit me really hard. The idea that we, as a church, could be shutting the door of heaven in peoples faces. That we restrict the Gospel in peoples lives. That in some attempt to quantify grace we narrow the gate to salvation even further we place rules and regulations on attaining it. We cannot comprehend the free gift of grace and in some twisted way we want to quantify it. We begin to say things like you cannot be saved until this or that or you cannot be baptized until this action is complete. I struggle with that. Who am I to tell someone they can’t know Jesus. I feel that my job as a Christian is to simply point to Him. Jesus does the rest. Jesus does the saving, does the healing, does the convicting, does the sanctifying and is working all things towards Himself.
Instead of cheering on people toward Jesus Christ I am scared that the church has become like the Pharisees. We forget that Jesus says this in Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” We cannot do this on our own. We need to continually be in a posture of dependence and surrender to Jesus Christ. Our work is to point people towards Him, not to choose who gets to seek Him.
I hope by reading this you can take time to reflect on your ministry. Does your ministry give you celebrity status? Are you placing unfair burdens and restrictions on the Gospel? Do you want others to live holy lives that you are not willing to live either?
I pray that we look to Jesus for the answers and not ourselves.