Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them. They do everything in order to be seen by people: they wear very wide bands of the law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.
But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, he who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you. Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.
“They do not do what they say,” says Jesus of the scribes and Pharisees of his time. That indeed is the characteristic of hypocrites, is it not? Yes, it is. And we secretly congratulate ourselves for not being hypocrites. Yet, if we stopped ourselves in our tracks, sat down a few minutes, and examined in detail our behavior during the past 24 hours, would we find that we always and invariably do as we say, act according to our professed principles, follow through with our resolutions? Maybe we do all that. Then we are probably ready for canonization… Most of us, ordinary humans, have difficulty living up to our high Christian ideals. Always doing what we say we do is not always easy. In fact, at times it is excruciatingly difficult.
Pharisees also “do everything in order to be seen by people.” Again, before throwing stones at anyone, maybe we should sit down and ask ourselves: “During the past 24 hours, would I have done anything differently if I had the absolute certainty that nobody was watching me? When do we act purely for God, regardless of who is watching? There is perhaps a little Pharisee inside many of us…
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