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"'You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You love sitting at the head table at church dinners, love preening yourselves in the radiance of public flattery. Frauds! You're just like unmarked graves. People walk over that nice grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under.'" Luke 11:43,44 (The Message).
This is one of the tragedies of the Christendom of this age - perhaps of all ages, this putting on airs and graces in the name of Jesus when this attitude is the complete opposite of all He taught and stood for.
What is the root of this attitude? When we look at Jesus, we see a person so secure in God and in Himself that He did not need the accolades of people to make Him feel good about Himself. He knew who He was and could be authentically Himself without needing affirmation and approval from the people around Him.
Perhaps their learning had so inflated the self-worth of these Pharisees that it obscured the wickedness and greed in their hearts. They had lied to themselves so much that their cloak of 'holiness' became their all-time cover-up for what they were really like inside. Their egos had become so big that they were oblivious to the evil buried beneath the surface of their religious performance.
But even that was second to their attitude. This was what angered Jesus the most. Not only did they think their performance made them acceptable to God, but they despised everyone who did not measure up to their standard. Everyone who was not in their class was beneath them, making them act as though they deserved the attention and approval they received from the 'lesser mortals' who admired and deferred to them.
They not only thought they deserved the highest honour and admiration from the crowd, but they also expected and demanded it. They would never think of taking the lowest place at the dinner table. They would not wait to be escorted to the place of honour beside the host. They would simply take is as their right.
It is a sad fact that there are Christian 'leaders' who act in exactly the same way in the public eye today. Their success in the church game, their wealth which they see as evidence of God's 'blessing' and their exposure through the media have given them so much visibility that they have begun to think that they are more important and better than the ordinary people around them. They love titles - Apostle, Prophet, Reverend, Doctor, Father, because these boost their ego and set them above others.
What an exposure this is of our own hearts! However okay we think we are, there always lurks below the surface the stench of rotten things. Why are we so afraid of being real? We think that, somehow, we will lose the respect of love of those closest to us when, in fact, the opposite is actually true. People identify more readily with others who are as fallible as they are.
To be authentic is to be free. When we can own up to who we really are, we lose the need to pretend and can have the freedom to approach the Father with transparent honesty instead of pretending to be someone we are not. Jesus used words like 'servant' and 'little child' to describe the attitude of true greatness in any son of God. Jesus was first and foremost a servant to the world He came to rescue.
He never pulled rank to re-enforce His authority. His authority came from His humble submission to His Father. He did not need to cover up what was inside Him. He stands on the side of His Father who 'resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.' When we entertain the Pharisee attitude, God says in effect, 'You're on your own. I can do nothing with you or for you.'
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