The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12
Creator God, you have filled the world with beauty:
open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works, that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness, for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
- Joshua 3:7-17
- Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
- 1 Thessalonians 3:5-13
- Matthew 23:1-12
- Next week:
- Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
- Psalm 78:1-7
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18
- Matthew 25:1-13
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 23 – Matthew 23:1-12
The Pharisees’ love of honour manifests itself in several ways. “They make their phylacteries broad, enlarge the fringes of their garments” (v. 5b). Phylacteries (also known as tephillin) are leather boxes containing one or more scrolls inscribed with passages of scripture in accord with the law, “Therefore you shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul; and you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 11:18). In obedience to this law, the scribes and Pharisees wear phylacteries on their forehead and their arm. The phylacteries serve as a constant reminder of God’s law and include certain passages of the law (Exodus 13:1-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21). Deuteronomy also requires Jews to write the laws “on the door posts of your house, and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:20)—a law that observant Jews still obey by fastening a Mezuzah containing these laws on the doorpost of their homes. Such a device identifies a home as Jewish and its inhabitants as observant. It also serves as a constant reminder to children and others of God’s law.
Tassels or fringes are required by Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12 and are intended to remind people of God’s commandments. Phylacteries and tassels are like stained glass windows or icons— intended to help people, particularly pre-literate people, to remember and to understand spiritual things. They are laid down by God in Torah law. The problem is not that the scribes and Pharisees observe these Torah laws, but that they seek personal honour for doing so. They wear especially large phylacteries and long tassels to draw attention to their scrupulous observance.
Jesus teaches his disciples a very different way to live. He teaches us to give alms, to pray, and to fast in secret (6:1-8, 16-18) so that “your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (6:18). He says of people who seek to practice public piety to gain public honour that they will “have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (6:1).
You can read the Pew Sheet here