Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:1-12 (NLT)
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 23 is intense. He gets after the heart of the issues he saw in Judaism at his time. One of these issues was arrogance. The Pharisees and Sadducees loved the status that came with being a religious leader. They loved the honor they received everywhere they went. It became an idol in their lives that they pursued more than God. But Jesus tells the crowds not to seek titles, not to seek the praise of others, not to exalt themselves over other people. He taught the crowds to humble themselves by being a servant to everyone. We live in a society that promotes and seeks praise for the individual. There is certainly a place for congratulations and saying “good job” to people who really have done a good job. This teaching of Jesus allows for this sort of praise. We need to encourage each other. But Jesus says make sure you know who your master is. It’s not the praise and adoration of other people. Your master is God. And you serve all others.
How does pride get in the way of your relationship with God? Do you seek the praise of other people? How does serving people humble you? What makes it hard to serve others?