As I'm reading through the book of Matthew many great things are refreshing my mind of the life of Jesus. His compassion, grace and humility have stood out to me as I have seen him interact with many people. But Jesus is tenacious with one group he interacts with many times during his life: the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. In Matthew 23, Jesus talks with the crowd and to his disciples about the scribes and Pharisees. At first glance it seems easy to write these "woes" off because surely his words are not for me. Boy, was I wrong.
As I was reading I noticed so many tendencies to be a religious person rather than a follower of Jesus Christ. This is where most of the confusion about Christianity develops. There is so much confusion between religion and true Biblical Christianity. In a brief overview I'd like to look at these seven woes Jesus speaks about the religious leaders to challenge me and you to make sure we are following Christ and not religion.
Jesus says, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others" (Matt. 23:2-5).
As we see the Pharisee's were simply those who did not practice what they preached. Rather they tie heavy burdens around people's necks which is the opposite of Jesus who said "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and earn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).
Lord, convict me and challenge me as I see the sin of religion and works in my own heart. By your Spirit help me to trust in the accomplished work of Christ and rest in that reality alone. Amen.
Grace upon grace,