As he taught them he said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplace, who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts. They take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers. Their punishment will be all the worse!’ (verses 38-40)
Read Mark 12: 35-44
These are strong words, and so first it is important to note what Jesus is not saying. He is not issuing a blanket rebuke to all pastors and Christian leaders, our modem-day ‘teachers of the law’. Nor is he rejecting liturgical vestments, respect for superiors, or long prayers.
What he is saying is that those who have been entrusted with the task of speaking God’s word publicly had better not put obstacles in the way of those who need to hear it. In this sense Jesus is warning Christian leaders to make every effort to live humbly, honestly, and with utmost integrity and discretion.
But it is also a warning to all Christians. As a member of Christ’s church you also are to avoid any behaviour that makes it difficult for unbelievers or the weak in faith to hear God’s word and believe. Everything you do is to be in harmony with your holy calling as a baptised child of God.
Heavenly Father, forgive me when I live in ways which bring your holy word into disrepute. Help me to live humbly, honestly and with integrity. Amen.
by Adam Cooper, in ‘New Strength for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 1998)
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