Jesus on Theocrats

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.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." --Matthew 23:1-13


John Funk writes (emphasis mine and references omitted -- see original article):
Who were the Pharisees during the time of Christ? The origin of the word "Pharisee" comes from "Pharisaios" meaning a separatist, i.e. exclusively religious; a Pharisean, i.e. Jewish sectary. According to Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the Pharisees were a religious and political party in Palestine in New Testament times. They were especially known for insisting that the law of God be observed as the scribes interpreted it and for their special commitment to keeping the laws of tithing and ritual purity. One distinctive feature of the Pharisees was their strong commitment to observing the law of God as it was interpreted and applied by the scribes. According to the New Testament, the Pharisees were concerned about strictly interpreting and keeping the law on all matters, including the Sabbath, divorce, oaths, the wearing of Phylacteries and Fringes, and other matters. Since Pharisees found that other Jews were not careful enough about keeping the laws of tithing and ritual purity, they felt it was necessary to place limits on their contacts with other Jews as well as with Gentiles. For example, they could not eat in the home of a non-Pharisee, since they could not be sure that the food had been properly tithed and kept ritually pure.

Although most people believe that the Pharisaical sect which dominated the religious scene of the first century eventually died out, they might be surprised to find that this particular group has survived to the present day. This survival has not been as a result of propagation and blood line but rather as a belief system. Occasionally, we now have modern day Pharisees who attempt to dominate the church with their belief systems and therefore, exercise control and authority. The words of Jesus are just as applicable today as they were when He walked this earth.
Cited: Matthew 23:13-15, 23-28 -- I recommend the entire chapter as illumination on what Jesus had to say about literalists and televangelists, and how the establishment church treats true prophets. Funk sums up:
Broken down by verse, Jesus heaps criticism upon these religious leaders for
(1) denying the kingdom of God to others because of their burdensome rules and regulations while professing that they will enter God’s kingdom when in fact, they would not;

(2) stealing from the poor while making a great spectacle of themselves by offering long prayers in public;

(3) going to great lengths to convert someone to their beliefs only to make them as bad as they were;

(4) observing the smallest matters of the law while ignoring the more important ones, i.e. following the letter of the law while ignoring the intent of the law;

(5) professing to be the spiritual guides, shepherds or leaders of their time and yet failing to do so;

(6) failing to recognize their own spiritual blindness; and,

(7) making sure that they were outwardly righteous and presentable while being inwardly filthy to the point that they were dead spiritually.
The Pharisees of that time were primarily interested in position, power and authority. They were not concerned with their relationship with God. In fact, they had deluded themselves to the point that they actually believed that they were the only ones right with God.
Hmmmm. . .
However, as Jesus taught, righteousness was not attained through works but rather through humility and repentance.
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" --Matthew 23:33

2 comments:

Daniel Levesque said...

I'm confused. Are you criticizing every religious leader in the world, or just the worldly ones who are immersed in hyppocrisy?

catastrophile said...

The ones with private jets, who seek and wield great influence in our society and government.