How easy it is for me to skim this passage and make the assumption this couldn’t possibly apply to me! There are no passages I can think of in the Gospels where I want to compare myself to the Pharisees in their conversations with Jesus. I often can’t move on fast enough from Confrontational Jesus, priding myself that I’m not on the receiving end of that. However, there is an invitation here to look closer, to sit with this uncomfortable passage and ask ourselves, could Jesus’ words here be directed at me?
Upon closer inspection of this passage, I feel convicted of how often I carefully curate my external image, prioritizing how I am perceived instead of looking within, as the Pharisees are accused of doing. I need to ask myself: In which areas am I neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness? Where am I full of greed and self-indulgence? The answers to these questions are often more unpleasant than I’m willing to admit or dwell on.
Jesus has strong words of warning to the Pharisees who look one way to the world, but internally are not aligned with God’s heart. Jesus calls them “blind guides” (verse 24); how dangerous it is when we are leading others or have people looking to us for guidance and direction and our hearts are not aligned with God’s heart. We all are ‘guides’ to someone—perhaps our children, nieces, nephews, students, employees, or even in non-formal guide roles like with our colleagues and coworkers, friends, and peers. Especially when other hearts are involved, we should take Jesus’ words here seriously.
God invites us to have lives that reflect the things close to God’s heart: justice, mercy, faith, generosity, serving others in love; leading a holy life. All of these are the opposite of the things Jesus was calling out in the Pharisees hearts (and ours). I believe part of the invitation for this passage is to sit with it, choosing to reflect on our internal spaces that do not align with God and then confessing those areas. Realigning our hearts with God’s heart begins with honesty, humility, and confession.
Perhaps you will join me as I pray: Where, O Lord, have I neglected justice? Where have I chosen not to show mercy, O Merciful God? Holy Spirit, where have I acted without faith? Point out the areas to me where I have been greedy and self-indulgent, where my life has not reflected the Life it was meant to, Jesus. Forgive me and align my heart with Yours.
Pray the prayer suggested above. Where in your daily life can you better reflect the life Jesus calls us to?
by Mac Littel