Jesus Condemns the Pharisees
(Mark 12.38-40; Luke 11.37-52; 20.45-47)
1Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
2The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. 3So obey everything they teach you, but don't do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.
4They pile heavy burdens on people's shoulders and won't lift a finger to help. 5 Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. 6They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues. 7And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers.
8But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. 9Don't call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. 10None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. 11 Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. 12 If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.
Humility – a virtue highly valued by God. Many Scripture passages refer to it and show us what it looks like. Here, thanks to the Pharisees and religious teachers of Jesus’ day, we learn what it does not look like.
Culturally, Jews in Christ’s day showed their devotion to God by wearing little boxes containing Scripture on their foreheads and arms. The religious leaders did the same, but they ensured their boxes were larger than average. Why? To be noticed and to receive the public honor they desired.
The Jews also wore tassels on the corners of their robes to prove their love for God. Again, the religious leaders ensured their tassels were larger than average. They possessed “head-table mentality” – an attitude that craves recognition and preferential treatment, and a mindset condemned by Christ.
“Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others,” Christ said. “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honoured.”
So, what does humility look like?
- It seeks not to elevate one’s own importance, but strives to put others first.
- It sacrifices personal comfort and convenience – without complaining – for others’ benefit.
- It never considers menial tasks as beneath one’s dignity.
- It readily and unashamedly admits one’s need for God’s help.
- It’s aware of one’s shortcomings and is quick to admit them and ask for forgiveness if necessary.
The self-focused religious leaders of Christ’s day demonstrated none of the above characteristics. In contrast, Christ was humility personified from his birth in a cave to his burial in a borrowed tomb. His life was not about meeting his own needs but about fulfilling God’s purpose and redemptive plan. Let’s follow his example and make humility our hallmark, too.
Dear Lord, thank you for Christ’s example of humility. Please remove any shred of pride from my life. Teach me to view others and myself through your eyes. Grant me a humble heart through which you can accomplish your eternal purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.