Wednesday, July 25, 2007



Matthew 23:16-22

We are making our way through Jesus' strong admonishment upon the religious leaders of His day. What's interesting is that the same tendencies can be applied to leaders today. In verses 13-15 we saw that the legalism of the Pharisees actually served to shut others out of the Kingdom. Jesus continues to distinguish His Kingdom thinking with the natural practice of religious leaders with another woe.

16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever, swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever, swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 "You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 "And, `Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 "You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering ? 20 "Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 "And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 "And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it."

We have already seen that in matters of oaths the Jewish legalists were masters of evasion (Matthew 5:33-37). The general principle of evasion was this. To the Jew an oath was absolutely binding, so long as it was a binding oath. A binding oath was an oath which definitely and without equivocation employed the name of God; such an oath must be kept, no matter what the cost. Any other oath might be legitimately broken. The idea was that, if God's name was actually used, then God was introduced as a partner into the transaction, and to break the oath was not only to break faith with men but to insult God." 

Jesus is saying, "You have brought evasion to such a fine art that it is possible to regard an oath by the Temple as not binding, while an oath by the gold of the Temple is binding; and an oath by the altar as not binding, while an oath by the gift on the altar is binding." The whole idea of treating oaths in this way, the whole conception of a kind of technique of evasion, is born out of deceitfulness. The truly spiritual man will never make a promise with the deliberate intention of evading it; he will never, as he makes it, provide himself with a series of escape routes, which he may use if he finds his promise hard to keep. 

For Jesus your oath is bound in two ways. God hears every word we speak and God sees every intention of our hearts.

This was legalism at its best! Legalism lurks around every corner with all of its man-made distortions. It's so tempting for us all and easy to slip into at most every level. Life is not that complicated.

So, what is required for salvation? JESUS. And, what is required for holy living? JESUS. JESUS PLUS NOTHING.

ONE MORE THING: NOTE that Jesus calls the accepted religious leaders of the day two names-fools and blind guides. They were fools because they were spending most of their time and energies on worthless matters. They were called blind guides because, being positioned as guides they were not able to guide anyone. They were blind! They had no ability to see the way of the Kingdom for themselves and therefore no way to lead the people who looked to them as their guides. They were leading the people, but not toward the simplicity of Jesus and the Kingdom. I ask you. Do you see this same thing happening today? I just wonder what names Jesus has for our leadership today?