Tag Archives: matthew

Do As They Say, But…

So, today we’re going to talk about one of the things that most pisses me off in religious circles: Hypocrisy.

I got into it a bit recently with another blogger about how he “wondered about the souls” of people who would vote for Barack Obama, particularly if they knew he had been against a bill that would have guaranteed medical care for fetuses that survived the process of late-term abortions. What got me mad wasn’t that he was troubled by the practice of late-term abortions (which are pretty freaking rare, by the way)…because frankly, I’m not really a big fan of abortion either, though I stand by a woman’s right to choose. I wasn’t troubled that he thought this particular decision by Obama was perhaps morally wrong. I wasn’t even bothered that much by the fact he is firmly in that McCain-Palin is good and their opponents are evil camp, because I expected it.

What cheesed me off was when I point out to him that plenty of right-leaning politicians have made decisions related to the environment that allow toxic crap to be spewed out and cause all sort of health-related harm, included lethal cancers in children and their families, and in larger numbers than are affected by late-term abortions. He basically brushed me off with a comment that environmental controls are bullshit and I was being a fearmonger about bringing up fantasy scenarios about the environment while ignoring the plight of the unborn.

That pisses me off because I wasn’t ignoring the plight of the unborn but pointing out that all politicians have stains, and many of them have at least one pretty severe stain (if not many) in their pasts. I was pointing out that it’s easy to focus on an issue you feel close to and ignore the fact that people you support have done things equally harmful in areas you don’t consider valid. I was pointing to hypocrisy.

And the hypocrisy point was reinforced for me today at church when my pastor preached from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, verses 1-12:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

What really got me about that passage from Matthew was this part:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

In other words, do as they say, but for God’s sake, do not do what they are doing.

It is interesting, because it is so close to that comment so many of us have gotten from our parents and/or say to our own children: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

That’s an important sentiment. It is not, however, a hypocritical one in many cases. It is a often recognition by the person saying it that they know they are doing wrong, and they want the person they are chastising to be a better person. There is a lot of positive value to that.

Likewise, when Jesus told his disciples and others gathered around him to listen to the words of the Pharisees and scribes, but not to emulate them, he was giving good advice. The Jewish church was teaching things according to God’s will, and those teaching were valuable. But at the same time, many of the priests and others in the temples and synagogues were dirty and sinful to the extreme. They were full of themselves and not full of the spirit of God.

How does that apply today? For you? Simple: There’s a good chance that what folks might tell you from the pulpit or sometimes even from religious blogs has at least a kernel of truth or goodness to it, but try to focus on the real message and on the Word of God, and not on the person giving you the message.

The blogger I argued with was right that we should question Obama’s judgment and motives on that legislative decision. But where he was wrong was to suggest that somehow supporting Obama (especially if you knew about that decision) was something that put your salvation in jeopardy. Hell, it wasn’t even appropriate for him to suggest that Obama was evil for that one decision. That blogger had an agenda, and a perfectly good respectable message about considering the sanctity of life was utterly corrupted as he carried out an agenda instead of trying to raise awareness.

In churches, preachers sometimes preach from their own motivations and beliefs and let that cloud their sermons. They also might act in ways that are counter to what they preach. That doesn’t mean what they have preached is wrong. But it might be skewed. It is incumbent upon us to be in the Word of God ourselves, and to use our brains, to sort out the message from the messenger.

Because the words given to us by those who are in religious circles might be good ones, but the people themselves might be hypocrites. And the worst hypocrites sometimes twist those good words to foul purposes.

Don’t be led by men. Be led by prayer, by the Word of God, by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. You may still get it wrong or misinterpret or misstep, but at least when you do, it will have been because you made a mistake or got lax. But if you just let people force-feed you your dogma, and don’t ever question the value of the source, you are letting God down. Connect to Heaven, not to earthly agendas. Get in touch with your soul, and not other people’s prejudices.

The Great Divider by Miz Pink


Little miss me was supposed to post something on Saturday. That’s supposed to be my regular day around here now (in addition to the twofer Tuesday thang) I could go blaming my girlfriend who is about to go through a divorce and wanted to hang out last night, but truth is I still had time to post something. But it probably woulda been crapiolio because I was fresh outta ideas. But church today gave me a nice gospel passage to talk about, so it’s all to the good now.

And what am I gonna talk about? Gospel o’ Matthew chapter 10, verses 24-39. I know, I know, a decent chunk of reading for the average American but you’re reading a blog so how average can ya be? You must like reading. But if you’re really pressed for time you can focus on verses 34 through 39 becasue that’s the controversial part…the part the really rankles some people. Including the woman who read that passage before today’s sermon at church. And the pastor apparently almost lost a close friendship a few years back talking about this passage. Here’s that thorny part by the way:

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

As the liturgist today was fretting about verbally as she prepared to read the entire passage (which is about the meaning of discipleship), she even said, “I like to think that Matthew didn’t really understand what Jesus meant to say.”

And to that, I ask “why the heck not?”

I know it sounds harsh of Jesus to put it that way, but what’s wrong with putting the son of God, the savior of the world…and by extension his big daddy upstairs…ahead of your family? Are the creator of the universe and the guy who is responsible for making it possible for you to avoid eternal damnation some punks you should disregard? Isn’t their eternal cause…and the mission of evangelism and discipleship they put before us more important than any of our worldly concerns?

I’m not saying we should disregard our families and I’m not saying everyone should go out and spread the gospel while leaving their loved ones in the dust. But when you get down to it, that’s not what Jesus was talking about really.

Remember, he was preaching to guys and gals who were Jewish! Waaaay back in the day! To follow him and accept that he was the messiah when most people thought he was a fraud and a troublemaker (especially the saduccees and pharisees) was to put yourself at direct odds with your families. Most people had to basically reject what their families were telling them to follow Jesus. So, back then (and even for some time after Jesus rose from the dead, since the vast bulk of Isreal was still Jewish and not followers of Jesus and most of the Gentiles worshipped multiple other gods and goddesses) Christianity was a huge divider of families. But to embrace your family’s desires would have been to reject Jesus and thus salvation and redemption. Jesus was telling them it was a hard choice but a needed one. People had to choose sides and that meant pissing off family and friends and employers and even the leaders of society.

Today, the average Christian in the first world at least doesn’t really have to deal with that. Let’s face it. If you’re born into a Christian family in America or Europe or someplace else where Christians aren’t persecuted, your family isn’t likely to be divided much by your beliefs in Jesus. Though it is still possible. Maybe you have liberal Christian parents who think the entire Bible is just symbolic. Well then if you take a more fundie view, you might have to choose Christ over your kin. Doesn’t mean you have to reject your family but it does mean you have to be willing to incur their anger maybe to do the right thing. And if your family is Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever else and you take up believing in Christ, well you can best be sure you’ll probably ruffle some feathers and maybe be unwelcome at family gatherings.

And how about not being in a Christian tolerant country  at all? Think of the missionary folks who go out to the Middle East or China or wherever to preach the gospel. They find people who hear and take the gospel to heart. Sometimes they get imprisoned and tortured and even killed for doing it. And the people they preach to may risk the same. Imagine choosing Jesus and not only having to face the wrath of your parents but also the wrath of you own country and police.

But Jesus is that importnat. Salvation is that valuable. Hearing and sharing the gospel is that important.

Jesus came in love…filled up with it…and he came as representative to us of God’s love for us. But he also was willing to tell us things that would make us queasy and shake us up, because choosing faith in Jesus and his Father and accepting the holy spirit aren’t easy things. They come at a price. But the reward is so much greater than the price.

Christianity is meant to bring humans back into grace with God. It aint meant to bring people together on Earth. It can. And ideally it should. But sometimes, it is impossible to do both. We shouldn’t hear Jesus’s words that he comes to divide as being counter to his mission. It’s a recognition that what he offers isn’t always an easy pill to swallow. But few things of true value in this world ever come easy. So why should something that is of the next world be any easier?