January 26 – Today’s Readings – Matthew 23-25 and Psalms 26
In the NIV translation, I counted the word “hypocrite” six times in Chapter 23. This does not include references to “children of hell, blind guides, blind Pharisees, whitewashed tombs, dead men’s bones, snakes, brood of vipers, condemned to hell, murderers, torturers and persecutors of the righteous”!
Jesus Himself pronounced these “fighting words” to religious hypocrites. His words are strong enough to make the hair on your neck stand on end! Obviously God REALLY takes issue with people who profess one faith and lifestyle yet practice another. Pretenders are not high on God’s “promotion to heaven” list. As we read on, we see a connection between these rebukes and the Day of Judgment when Jesus will meet out justice to all men according to what they have done. (Always keeping in mind that forgiveness is granted when true repentance has been enacted)
Immediately following this passage is “the Parable of the Ten Virgins”, a thinly veiled rebuke to those who do not continue faithful in the christian walk. Then comes “the Parable of the Talents” where Jesus reemphasizes the “hypocrite” theme. We are left with no doubt that non-productivity in the Christian life is not an option either.
Finally we find the word “goats” describing people who were hard-hearted toward those less fortunate than themselves or those troubled with life’s issues. These “goats”, as you might have noticed, did not end their existence well either.
This part of Jesus’ character is a far cry from the usual “gentle Jesus meek and mild” or the “Jesus blesses me” clubs that we tend to belong to. This Jesus is holding all humanity (yes even You and I) accountable to a Mighty, Holy God of Judgment! Why? – Because we all need motivation in life aside from a cheerleader style of encouragement. We need a Holy Reverence for God Almighty – a “fear” of God. This brings wisdom into our lives – and what is wisdom? It is the inner voice of conscience and of the Spirit telling us what NOT to do and what TO do if we would live a godly life.
There’s no big secret to this – sometimes the thing that stops a child from disobeying is the knowledge that he will be punished if he does. Sometimes the thing that deters us from doing something wrong is that we see a police car behind us. What often keeps a Christian from living a hypocritical life is the knowledge that they have to answer to God for this lie. What then shall we do? Love Jesus, but treat your relationship with Him and others with great respect.
1. In your opinion, is fear a valid motivator in the Christian’s life? Why?
2. How does “the fear of the Lord” affect you day to day?