Summary: A sermon about loving mercy.

"We Can Get So Off Base"

Matthew 23:1-12

Micah 6:6-8

Like most of us, John Burke (pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas) assumed that he was not a judgmental person.

But just in case he was wrong, he tried an experiment: for a whole week he kept track of his judgments about other people. Here's what he discovered:

"Judging [others] is fun!

Judging others makes you feel good, and I'm not sure I've gone a single day without this sin.

In any given week, I might condemn my son numerous times for a messy room; judge my daughter for being moody—which especially bothers me when I'm being moody (but I have a good reason!) …. even my dog gets the hammer of condemnation for his bad breath ….

Some of you may be thinking, 'Wait, are you saying that correcting my kids for a messy room is judging?'

NO! But there's correction that values with mercy and there's correction that devalues with judgment.

I watch the news and condemn those 'idiotic people' who do such things.

Most reality TV shows are full of people I can judge as sinful, ignorant, stupid, arrogant, or childish.

I get in my car and drive and find a host of inept drivers who should have flunked their driving test—and I throw in a little condemnation on our Department of Public Safety for good measure!

At the store, I complain to myself about the lack of organization that makes it impossible to find what I'm looking for, all the while being tortured with Muzak—who picks that music anyway?

I stand in the shortest line, which I judge is way too long because—'LOOK PEOPLE—it says '10 items or less,' and 1 count more than that in three of your baskets—what's wrong with you people?'

And why can't that teenage checker—what IS she wearing?—focus and work so we can get out of here?

Judging is our favorite pastime, if we're honest—but we're not!

We're great at judging the world around us by standards we would highly resent being held to!

Judging makes us feel good because it puts us in a better light than others."

And that's kind of what the legal experts and the Pharisees were doing in Jesus' day.

They were putting themselves in a better light than others.

So Jesus spoke to the crowds and His disciples, and He warned them:

"The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat.

Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say.

But don't do what they do."

In other words, "they preach, but they don't practice what they preach."

"They do all their deeds to be seen by others."

And later in Chapter 23 Jesus says that they are hypocrites, "blind guides," "whitewashed tombs," "snakes," and a "brood of vipers."

Their lives are like a 24-7 public relations operation.

The light of self promotion is always on because people are always forming opinions about them, and those opinions are what is most important.

They work long and exhausting hours trying to "prop up" a "better-than-the-reality" image.

The sheer volume of work that goes into trying to please or impress other people is absolutely exhausting.

But if we are going to be truly honest with ourselves and with God, we often live our lives more like the legal experts and Pharisees than we do like those imitating Christ.

After repeated confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus has finally had enough.

The problem is not their religious traditions or teachings.

Jesus says that they are teaching the law of Moses: "Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don't do what they do."

The problem is that they are misusing their authority.

They behave in ways that go against what they teach and say.

They talk about glorifying God, but what they are most interested in is glorifying self.

They talk about orienting their entire lives toward God, but they are really trying to draw everyone's attention to themselves.

They talk about their responsibility for the people, yet "they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry.

They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them."

Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others.

And in these things, the legal experts and the Pharisees aren't unique.

It's human nature to act with such hypocrisy and pride.

And it's easy to judge the attitudes and actions of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day.

It's a whole other thing altogether to admit that we are a lot like them.

I know I am.

It's the biggest thing that gets between me and my ability to do what God has called me to do.

It's so easy to confuse my own interests with God's purposes, my own power with God's sovereignty, my own social standing with God's glory.

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