Summary: Hey, peacock, how broad are your phylacteries and how long are your fringes?
There’s Always Room for One More
A Texas rancher met up with a Wisconsin dairy farmer. The two men began talking about their land and the milkman told the cattleman that he operated his business on 125 acres. The Texan scoffed at such a small parcel of land. He said, "Yankee, that ain’t nothin’. On my ranch I can get in my truck at sunrise and I won’t reach the fence line of my property until sunset." The dairy farmer snorted, "Yeah, I used to have a truck like that."
* "Panorama of Parenting," Howard Hendricks, Dallas Theological Seminary, T42PEY
Everybody wants to impress others, want to be seen as successful, or better than others. They want the newest car, biggest house, nicest clothes, or the most land. They want to be the lead dog. This desire to be first or be the best or be admired has another name: pride. God tells us what He thinks about people who want to be first. The “first will be last and the last will be first.”
Just like many people today, the Pharisees wanted others to see them as special and treat them as though they are closer to God than anyone else. They wanted others to be impressed with their piety and holiness. They were chest thumpers who said, “Hey, look at me! Look at how important I am! See how broad my phylacteries are and how long my fringes are?”
Now, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing portions of God’s Word and they were worn by Jews who interpreted literally the instructions to fasten God’s Word on their hands and forehead. And Moses, in Numbers 15, had instructed the children of Israel to put fringes on their garments to remember, not only the law in general, but also the smaller parts of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it.
So the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad, that is, they put more writing on them or made the letters larger and thus more visible, to appear more holy. And they made their fringes longer to show how much more they followed the finer points of the law, therefore making them “holier than thou”.
I’m sure they didn’t like it one bit when Jesus pointed out how these men dressed to draw attention to themselves to put themselves on a higher level than others. They wanted to appear religious without actually being religious. “…for they do not practice what they teach.” Their philosophy was, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
These men thought they were important to God, they thought they were important to men, but they were just a bunch of hypocrites.
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "I hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" BUSTED! The man’s hypocrisy was uncovered.
Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice as they teach."
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he/she isn’t. I’m sure we all know people like that. I heard a story told of a man who, when asked by a pastor why he didn’t come to church with his family, replied, “Because the church is filled with hypocrites.” To which the pastor responded, “That’s okay. There’s always room for one more.” I don’t know if that is a true story or if the man ever went to that or any other church.
But it does beg the questions, “Are there hypocrites in our churches today? Are there ‘Pharisees’ today that wear broad phylacteries and long fringes? Are there people in our churches today that say one thing on Sunday and do another thing on Monday?”
The answer to these questions is yes, YES, and YES! Of course there are people that don’t practice what they preach; who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. We know that nobody’s perfect, that we’re just sinners saved by grace, but some people don’t even try!
We, as Christians (i.e. “religious people”), are always under a microscope. Are we living a life worthy of being called a “child of God”? Or are we just “a bunch of hypocrites”? Who are we trying to impress?