"best seats in the synagogues"

Matthew 23 has some of Jesus’ strongest preaching, and you’ve got to know that this is therefore some of the strongest preaching in all creation. Matthew 23, vv. 2-9 is a warning about hypocrisy and pride. I am perhaps naive, but it seems to me that if a Christian does nothing else, he should at least attempt to follow these teachings of the Lord. And how many of us, myself most certainly included, succeed at this bit of discipleship?

Let’s look at the record, as they say:

Matthew 23: 2″The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven

We all know those who don’t practice as they preach, and I won’t take any cheap shots at the Catholics for having “Father” as a title for their priests. How about those “best seats in the synagogues?” Many churches have little memorials to families who have been members for generations, or who have been particularly generous of their time and treasure. Plaques in memory of, or dedicated to, but almost always with credit being taken by the Smith family, or whoever. Stained glass with built-in panes proclaiming who provided the money for them. Seating that is known to “belong” to particular families, with, at the least, sharp looks and some words to anyone else who deigns to sit in one of the “best seats.”

Then there’s the dress code, which ranges from none to extreme social pressure to wear suits and ties, even in high summer. Something tells me that Jesus would not really look at what y’all are wearing should he come back and attend our Sunday services.

All of this simply means that it is also as Jesus tells us, that church is not a museum for the saints. It is a hospital for the sinners, which includes all who attend church, as well as all who do not. Matthew 9:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Think on these verses, and on Jesus’ admonitions against pride and hypocrisy, the next time you might find youself seated next to someone who may not smell so good or who isn’t dressed in what you might think of as their “Sunday best.”

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One comment

  1. Excellent post JL, I have linked this at Scotwise!


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