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N. T. Wright, in writing about this passage (Mt 23:1-12), tells the story of trying to prepare for a hiking and camping trip. He went to an outfitter who took him around the store showing him everything he would need. The salesman recommended a good sleeping bag and a durable tent. He sold him a very good pair of hiking shoes. He convinced him he needed a proper stove and cooking kit. He piled things at the counter like maps, a flashlight, knife, and first-aid kit. He sold him all the packaged food he would need.

On they went through the whole store. The last thing he sold him was a backpack to carry all the stuff. In the pack they placed all the things he had bought for the trip. It was so heavy he couldn't pick it up. As it sat on the counter, he sort of backed up to it and placed his arms through the straps. As he was staggering out the door he happened to ask the man who sold him all the stuff, "What sort of vacations do you have, then? Where do you go?"

The man retorted, "Oh, I just go to the seaside. Bad back. Can't carry stuff like that."

Jesus' words came to his mind as he stumbled with all his gear toward his car: "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."

So here the Pharisees were, telling people all the things they needed to take on their spiritual journey and piling them on their backs, and all the while they were not carrying the pack themselves. They were haughty and proud and held people to obeying laws that they themselves did not obey. They did not obey them because they were above the law. The rules were for the common people, the little people. They could cheat because they weren't like everybody else. They owned the camping supply store and could tell everyone else what they needed, while they avoided wooded trails and lay at the seashore. Jesus says, "Do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach."

Do you know people like that? They are always ready to point out what others are doing wrong, but do the same things themselves, or worse? They are a walking list of rules for others, while having glaring faults that they do not seem to notice. They put on an air of spiritual superiority and think so little of others, while feeling so good about themselves. But the call of Jesus is quite different. He said, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12). The proud are humbled and the humble are exalted. It is an upside down kingdom, or rather a right-side up kingdom, while the kingdom of this world is upside down. Jesus means to right it.

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