Not just for the publicity.

Jesus was a good speaker. Effective, thoughtful, discerning, disarming, and then he takes your breath away. (Isn’t that a nice way to say, “punches you in the gut?”)

In his last week of teaching before he was killed, he talked about the religious leaders. And he sounds pretty contemporary: Everything they do is done for people to see.

He could be quoting the research on the relationship between anxiety and Instagram. He could have been quoting the people I visit in the hospital who talk about the hypocrisy of pastors they have known. He could have been inside my head as I look at my motives sometimes.

And then Jesus unpacks what he means by the public spirituality of the religious leaders.

Signs“They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long.” Jesus was talking about some religious objects that were taken from the law of Moses. But he could have been talking about skirt lengths, beard length, hair length, or coffee mug size. Anything that we do thinking, “How do the spiritual people do this?”

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.” It’s the seat at the front table so people see you or at the back so people see your humility.

“They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” It’s the subtle reminders to use Pastor in public and private, the little rush of adrenaline when someone knows your name and lets you go first.

Here’s the hard part.

Respect is good, humility is powerful. It’s not sinful to sit at the head table.

But those of us who lead have to be honest in our journals: How much of what we do is for people to see?


About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

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