“Why Matters,” Matthew 23: 1-12

First things first – a phylactery is box containing scripture that is worn on the forehead and arm

  • Deuteronomy 6:8 – “tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”
    • No idea how it worked, but they attached these things to themselves during prayer
    • I knew we needed to get that out of the way first

It would be easy for us to hear the word “Phylacteries” and immediately tune out

  • Iverson, we’re talking about practice?
  • This sounds like something that has no value to us reading it today – sizes of boxes and lengths of tassels, really?
    • Problem for a bygone time, issue that falls short of the problems we face
      • We’re worried about the state of our world, the state of our families and relationships, the state of our finances, and we’re talking about Phylacteries
        • Hold that thought – there’s more going on here that can speak to us than we might think

Let’s get into it first

  • Altercation happens during holy week, second day, at the temple
  • Jesus has been speaking to the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law and a crowd has gathered to watch it go down
    • This society was built on a concept of honor and shame – public interactions involved people competing to increase their honor and their opponent’s shame. That’s what the Pharisees and scribes try to do to Jesus, shame him with trick questions
    • Like a fight in the high school cafeteria – everyone has gathered around
      • Jesus had answered all their questions, turns to the crowd for the knockout punch
        • Do you want to know what’s wrong with these people? The Pharisees, the Teachers of the Law? Do you wanna know what their problem is?
          • Hedges it – they’re in a positions of authority, respect that and do what they tell you but here’s there issue

Issues (What’s Wrong With These People)

  1. They say but they don’t do
    • They talk a really good game but they don’t follow up on it
    • Tell folks what they should be doing but they don’t act on it
      • Best example – they talk all about being ready for the Messiah but they miss him when he’s there
  2. They put burdens on people and don’t offer any help or comfort
    • Pharisees loved laws, they loved rules
    • Made all these rules folks were expected to follow and kept adding them until people were crushed by them – set a standard no one could reach
  3. They act for the wrong reasons
    • Bachelor season – the ultimate insult on The Bachelor – “I don’t think you’re here for the right reasons”
    • They’re missing the point of the things they do
      • What size their box is when they pray, not the prayers themselves
      • How impressive their robes are
      • Where they sit and what people call them, they’ve missed the point
        • They’ve made the whats of faith matter more than the whys

Why Phylacteries matter – we do that all the time

  • We like to be invited to parties and spoken to at the grocery store, we like to be known and be liked by people
  • We have ideas about how the world should work and how it would be better and what other people should do to fix themselves
  • We all, at one time or another, talk a better game when it comes to our faith than we put into practice

Last week – four most common resolutions

  • People make a lot of resolutions about faith that don’t get kept
    • Youth minister – lots of teenagers get bogged down in Leviticus when they try to read the Bible in a year
    • In Jesus’ issues with the Pharisees and teachers of the law are some things that can help us reevaluate those kinds of resolutions and give them a chance at being successful and meaningful

Different Approach

  1. Let the actions speak for themselves
    • We like to document things – that’s great, but somethings need to just be for us or between us and God
    • If we make a big show of the things we do or want to do then we’ve just added pressure on ourselves
    • Don’t get me wrong – there’s a place for accountability and for showcasing our faith publicly but the way we go about publicizing these things reveals something of how seriously we’re taking them – let the things we do speak for themselves
  2. Think about burdens
    • Teenagers again – I’m gonna read the Bible every morning and I want you to ask me about it
      • Eventually you can tell they want you to stop asking
    • If the things we’re doing are just becoming bigger burdens then we’re missing the point – if prayer and bible study become obligations then we’ve missed out on the reality – faith is supposed to ease our burdens, not add to them
    • “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest..my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
      • Jesus came to take away burdens not add to them
        • If the things we’re doing to try to aid our faith are making us resent it, we need to take a step back and reevaluate what’s going on
          • Side note – make realistic goals
  3. Recognize that Why matters
    • Why do we want to do this things, what’s the point
      • Obligation, what we know we’re “supposed” to be doing
      • For someone else’s benefit – family, friends, the crowd
      • Because we love God and what know God better and more
    • Why matters – empty reasons will lead to an empty faith

We make a mistake when we think that the things we’re doing are for God’s benefit. There’s nothing that needs to come from us to make God love us or want us. The things we do are supposed to remind us of that and help us respond to it

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