NOBODY IS PERFECT
I Thessalonians 2:9-13, Psalm 107-VU831(Parts 1 and 4 Matthew 23:1-12
Voices United #229,264,504,651
October 30, 2005 by Tad Mitsui
If somebody says to me that he never lies, never cheats, and is never interested in money, I know he is a hypocrite and a liar. Then how come we still take politicians seriously who say they are always right and never make mistake. We too often say, "I’m right, and you’re wrong," even though we know that nobody is perfect. Jesus is warning us about a danger of this kind of hypocrisy.
The scribes and Pharisees were often accused of being hypocrites. But they were the experts on the Bible. They were respected and feared. They told people what was right or wrong. People gave them great power. They always sat at the head table. They became used to being praised in public. Many Pharisees, for sure, honestly pursued the truth, like Nicodemous who came to see Jesus in the dark of the night. The Pharisees were God fearing good people.
Unfortunately, many of them got used to being praised and came to believe that they deserved this exalted status. Arrogance and pride overtook them, and humility diminished. This is what happens when righteous people become self-righteous. We must remember that only God is absolutely right and just. No human is perfect. But we can be closer to God, if we acknowledge God”s grace, because God forgives our shortcomings. In this sense, we must remember that all of us who go to church are good people, not because we are good by nature but because we are made good by the grace of God. So it’s important to feel good about ourselves.
Church goers are lucky people, just like people who made it to the hospital in time. C.S. Lewis compared a Christian to a patient in a hospital who has checked in a little earlier than other people. Of course, there is something wrong with him. He is sick. That”s why he is in a hospital. But he got there a little earlier than others. He knows that when one is not well, the hospital is a good place to be. He can give others some tips about how to cope with hospital life, and can assure people that they should not be afraid.
What is interesting in this Gospel passage is that Jesus affirmed the Pharisee”s profession. He said that they sat on Moses” seat. So Jesus told people to respect and follow their teaching, even though some of them were hypocrites. Think of some people who left the church. Often people who leave the church are not against God or the teaching of Jesus. They are against some people who, to their opinion, behaved badly or said things they should not have. People become disillusioned by hypocrisy in the church. Jesus said, however, that despite hypocrisy of some Pharisees, what they taught was still God”s law. So he said, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it."
Of course, when you find some wrongs in the church, you should hear Jesus saying to you, "Do not do as they do, because they do not practice what they teach." In other words, he said, "Reject hypocrites, but follow their teaching of God”s words." It is very difficult to admit that someone you consider to be a hypocrite may be saying the right thing. But it happens. In fact, all of us are not perfect but we all have grains of goodness. The important thing to remember is that whatever good we say is acceptable by the grace of God. All of us are capable of speaking the word of God, not because we are perfect, but because God gave us the ability to do so. The church is not a gathering of people without sin. It is a gathering of forgiven sinners. We are like beggars who know where to find food. Evangelism is beggars telling other beggars where to find food. Let us listen to the word of God no matter how inadequate the carriers seem to be.
The problem of Pharisees and the scribes was that they had begun to believe that they by right deserved admiration and respect. They began to think that it was them whom people respected. They forgot that it was God who gave them pieces of divine knowledge and wisdom. It was this arrogance that made them hypocrites and failures as humans, even though they might have been conveying God”s messages. Arrogance in the Bible is termed as one of the biggest sins, because it makes a person self-righteous thus shuts off all channels of communication with God. It makes a person feel that he/she is complete and does not need any more help from God. It also shuts one off from further learning, because it makes one think one knows everything there is to know.
The church is a good place to be for us. But it is not a place for self-appointed saints to boast how good they are. It is a place where people gather, those who know their weaknesses but feel that they are accepted and safe. We are not afraid to admit the our limitations. The whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is based on forgiveness and acceptance of repentant sinners. It is this humility that makes us transparent, allowing God-in-us to shine out. This is why the church is a good place for us to be.