Harsh words. Blunt statements. Pointed criticism. There are times that we must remove the “kid gloves” and deal bluntly, harshly, directly with sin, false teaching and double standards, especially in the leadership of the Church.
Jesus is very critical, in Matthew 23, of the religious leaders who seemed to have a “do as I say, not as I do mentality. They seemed to consider themselves above the law.
One of Jesus main criticisms of the religious leaders springs from their pride. “Everything they do is done for men to see.” (vs 5 NIV) “They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.” (vs 6 NIV)Jesus said in contrast, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (vs 17 NIV) How many “big “pastors, in the last coupe decades, have watched as their ministries crumbled around them due to their sin finding them out? Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (NIV)
Another criticism is following the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. The Jewish leaders had taken the Mosaic Law from Exodus and Leviticus and debated it until it was turned from the Law of God into 517 chapters of minutiae, laws of men, nitpicking law. This was the burden they lay upon their followers. Jesus said all of the law boiled down to two commands: love God and love your neighbor. No wonder He said His burden was light. People look at many churches and see somber faced Christians following a list of do’s and don’ts with no love and no joy. This is not what Jesus wanted for His church; He wanted us to shine His light of love.
The third main criticism I see is their outward appearance did not show what was truly in their hearts. There was no love for God in their hearts. Outside they looked good; they followed the law; they went to temple; they did all the right things. But “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (vs 28 NIV) “You neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, faithfulness.” (vs 23 NIV) They did everything they did for the praise of men, not out of love for God.
Jesus concluded with crying “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing.” (vs 37 NIV) I pray that Jesus is not crying this for some who claim to be Christians. I pray that “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV)