Would you join me a bit more reflection on kingdom living? We’ve discussed the importance of embracing Christ’s kingdom claim and living into our kingdom calling as Jesus’ followers, an idea brought to light by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. Now, I'd like for us to turn our attention to one of the great challenges with respect to kingdom living—the human tendency to major in minors, while minoring in majors.
Why is it, I wonder, that people gravitate towards this practice—a practice which I call minutiae management? From a psychological point-of-view, there are probably many reasons for this. In His typical, penetrating fashion, Jesus cut to the core of the matter when he spoke about and to a group of people who had developed this human tendency to a fine art. Jesus seems to indicate there are two reasons for this tendency. We’ll talk about these in just a moment. Right now let’s look at a key text for this discussion—Matthew 23:1-12…
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 be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
"Everything they do is done for people 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 with respect in the marketplaces and to have people 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 Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
From these verses (and from the remainder of the chapter—Matthew 23:13-39—which we don’t have time to read this morning) we see that Jesus’ main contention with the scribes and Pharisees is their hypocrisy. They were pretending to be what they were not even intending to become! This is the heart of the problem with hypocrisy: to pretend what we don’t intend.
Upon closer analysis of this text it seems that at least two motives are clear. Before I mention these I ask you to remember that, while Jesus is addressing those who presumed themselves expert teachers and interpreters of Law of Moses, He could be addressing anyone of any generation who thinks she has cornered the market on knowing God’s will. This is a huge assumption to make—one that gives me pause each time I stand before a group of people to talk about the Scriptures.
Now, what are the two motivations which I see Jesus attributing to the Pharisees and experts in the Law who sit in Moses’ seat? Well, it seems like Jesus is suggesting that: (1) Some people are driven by PRIDE; and, (2) Some people have a thirst for POWER. Some are, as appears to be the case here, motivated by both.
If we get the point, we are well down the road towards resolution. Pride, we remember, “goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (cf. Proverbs 16:18); and, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (cf. Matthew 23:12). Indeed, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” (cf. 1 Peter 5:5)
Neither of these options is desirable! So, we ask: How do we escape the human tendency to corrupt Christianity into a religion of minutiae management?
The answer is simply stated:
We must refuse to major in the mundane; and choose to follow Jesus to a higher plane.
We must refuse to neglect the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness, while tithing the mint, dill and cumin!
We must refuse to worry about Jesus (or His followers) hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, while we are piously conducting our “we’re right rallies” and neglecting to show mercy to those who are in need.
We must choose to follow Jesus to a higher plane—a place in which mercy supplants sacrifice on our list of priorities.
We must choose to follow Jesus to a place in which love beckons us to follow Christ—and no other person—as King! The key to conquering the minutiae management mentality is recognizing Christ as king! We must refuse to major in the mundane; and choose to follow Jesus to a higher plane!
© Bill Williams
June 14, 2006