Don’t distract your attention or the attention of those around you to see you and exalt you. Point them to One who is above all of us. Today Jesus teaches us a building block of greatness: be a servant. Humble yourself. With sincerity and authenticity…
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
5 “Everything [the Pharisees] do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 23:1, 5-12
The Pharisees were religious and social leaders in Jesus’ time. They were committed to the Law of Moses, yet also took their practice to extreme levels, making it very difficult for others to follow. Jesus described being a Pharisee as being a child of hell (Matthew 23:15). Not a selling point if you are looking for a movement to join…
In this teaching of Jesus today, we see him warning the crowd and his followers to not be like the Pharisees. Everything Pharisees do, Jesus says, is for people to see. It is for show. Pharisees want their piety to be fully displayed for all to see and admire.
They love the place of honour and the most important seats. They love to be greeted with respect and called, ‘Rabbi.’ Okay, who doesn’t want these things? Wouldn’t you like to sit in a place of honour in your community? Wouldn’t you like to sit in the box seats? When people see you, wouldn’t you appreciate greetings of respect? We all would. This is normal.
Unless it is all about fueling your pride. Then it’s a problem. And when you are already in a place of power and viewed as elite, showcasing yourself looks a little like show-boating. It’s like you want more attention on top of being in a position of leadership or authority or power.
Jesus says there is a better way. Notice that he confronts this desire to be called Teacher or Rabbi. He directs our attention away from the world into the heavens. We have one Teacher. We have one Father. We have one Instructor, who is the Messiah. Jesus points us to God only and always. Don’t distract your attention or the attention of those around you to see you. Point them to One who is above all of us.
And then Jesus underscores the building block of greatness: be a servant. Humble yourself. The Pharisees exalted themselves. Do the opposite. Humble yourself.
This starts in the back room and the closet before you can demonstrate it with integrity in the front room and in public. Be humble in your home and with your close circle. Then when you bring your humility into the public arena it will be authentic and sincere…