Religious Humbug


Are you prideful or humble? Learn about a huge and humbling principle from Matthew 23.


God of Stability and Strength, I need You. Calm my nerves, remind me You have things under control, and make me a better servant.


MATTHEW 23:1-12


Consider: What a huge and humbling principle is outlined for us in verses 11 and 12. The best way to Christian humility is submission to Jesus as Lord and submission to Holy Scripture.

Think Further:

If the first major discourse by Jesus recorded by Matthew opens with promises of God's blessing (Matt. 5-7), today's passage introduces the final discourse--not of blessing but of judgment. It is a devastating piece of writing, introducing the strongest language we hear from Jesus' lips. Such words of judgment are not directed at the pagan but at the outwardly religious, for here Jesus exposes the perversion of true religion.

He begins by condemning the hypocrisy of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. If we are to hear the Lord's word to us, we should recognize what Jesus is exposing, because we might find it all too evident in ourselves. First, they "do not practice what they preach" (3). This matters because of their authoritative role in interpreting the Law of Moses (2). The entire chapter is a devastating critique of lives which do not match up to a profession of loyalty to God and his purposes. Too often our lives are out of sync, with so little consistency of word, character and behavior.

Hypocrisy is most obviously seen in self-interest, the desire to impress and to win honor. "Everything they do is done for people to see" (5). The passage smells of personal advancement and status anxiety. In the church we can point to ecclesiastical titles, to the fawning deference to academic position and to status-ridden denominational hierarchies. "What about our hearts?" we may then ask. The insidious influence of pride, often hard to spot, can contaminate our Christian service every day.

That is why we need to live by Jesus' value system (11-12), which he both preached and practiced. Not position, or prestige, or self-serving religious humbug, but the humble service of others. It is God's business to exalt or to humble (12; Isa. 2:11-12; 5:15-16).


Pride is a serious sin, yet one of the hardest to identify in our Christian service. Seek God's help to purify your motives and forgive your self-centeredness. Perhaps sharing with someone else could help.


Lord Jesus, I am so grateful that You humbled Yourself that I might be exalted. Holy Spirit, I need Your help in being truly humble.

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