by Dianne Eckermann
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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 (Matthew 23:4).
Schools are great places for lots of rules. Rules apply to what time you arrive and leave and what you can and cannot wear. There are rules for the playground and rules for the classroom. Clearly, there needs to be some sort of order so that students can learn, but sometimes it might feel as if schools exist almost solely to ensure students learn to follow the rules, such as learning how to wear uniforms correctly. Any other learning is almost incidental. However, some families struggle to provide the correct uniform or other school essentials. Such a proliferation of rules means that schooling for those families can be a burden, which is not always recognised.
At the beginning of today’s reading, Jesus tells his followers that the Pharisees really know Jewish law, and it is important to do everything they say. Unfortunately, though, these knowledgeable people do not feel the law applies to them. Laws exist for others to follow, even if it creates a burden for them. It is all law and no mercy. In addition, they enjoy being seen as important people in places of honour and importance, more important than those around them. It was all about looking good in the eyes of others, not about their relationship with God. The hypocrisy of appearing to be one thing while actually being the opposite is not difficult to see in Matthew’s account.
If we look honestly at our society and our own behaviour, we may not find much is different. It’s easy to condemn the Pharisees, but it is not so easy to hold a mirror up to our own prejudices against those who are different and those who don’t meet our high standards. It is quite uncomfortable to realise that from the time they start school, some children learn they are not as important as others. Humbly looking to God and showing acceptance of all is one way of easing the cumbersome load of those in need.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the great mercy you show us. Help us to also show compassion to those in need in your name. Amen.
Dianne has worked in varying roles in Lutheran schools and is currently Director of Leadership at Lutheran Education Australia. She lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband Rob, two dogs, and several kangaroos who visit regularly. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, the company of her children and grandchildren and walking along the River Torrens Linear Park Trail.