Jesus lets us see inside the mind of God with a list of seven things about religious people that drive Him nuts. Reading through the end of Matthew 23, here’s what He tells us:
1. (vs. 15) Convincing people to faithfully follow man made rules. They were passionate and sincere in their attempts to win converts. It was a beautiful job they did. They just won them to their OWN beliefs, not to following God. Are we winning people to our church, or to Jesus?
2. (vs. 16-22) Missing the point. They made up a bunch of guidelines for people to follow in how they proved their sincerity, but then missed the whole idea entirely. They set up rules for how to promise to make sure people knew you were serious (ex. “I swear on my dead mother’s grave” trumps “I swear that it’s true”). But they had forgotten the whole thing was about speaking truth because God tells us to. Do the paths to Christian success that we create actually walk people away from trusting God Himself?
3. (vs. 23,24) They worried about money over justice. They tithed to God what was important to them, their stuff. They did it brilliantly. But they didn’t help those in the world around them. Jesus says that justice, mercy, and faithfulness are more important matters of the law than their money, possessions, and how much they were giving to the church. With today’s economy, are we more worried about stewarding the stuff in our hands than we are about helping the hurting around us?
4. (vs. 25,26) They focused on themselves, their image, their respectability, and how they were seen by others. They ignored the issues of greed and self-indulgence, and worked very hard, and very effectively, to make other people respect them and be impressed with how good they were. Do we admit that we have issues with greed? What about how we spend our thought life? How much of it is focused on us, and how much of it is focused on God and others?
5. (vs. 27,28) They hid their sins. Inside, they were full of wickedness and hypocrisy, never letting anyone know how broken and hurting they were inside. They spent their energy on what other people thought of them. They didn’t allow anyone in to see what they were really struggling with. Do we create a world around us where other people can be honest about their hurts and fears? Do our words and actions tell our friends and families that they are better off keeping their secrets secret?
6. (vs. 29-31) They denied the past. They knew that their families and leaders had killed off God’s people. They could see in hindsight that disobedience had cost their leaders everything. But they distanced themselves from it, without ever stopping to learn from it. They refused to acknowledge that they were on the same path, committing the same mistakes. They would shortly after this kill Jesus Himself. What is in our heritage, our past, that is destroying us and we are afraid to admit to or confront? What sins and destructive habits are going on in us that we point out in others, but are afraid to own in our own lives? What will it take for us to admit them, and change the path we are on?
7. (vs. 33-39) They refused God’s help when it came to them. God sent person after person, convicted their hearts, showed them the truth, and they refused to have any of it. God offered them protection, they chose to stand on their own in the cold. It cost them everything. What are we refusing to hear God on today? What is that one thing He is calling out of us that we are battling Him on? What will it cost us?