Jesus had many choice words for the Scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 23, he outlined seven woes (great sorrow or distress) concerning their leadership practices. Jesus also outlined many challenges that he observed with them. 1. They did not practice what they preached. One of the most important traits, for people in leadership is integrity. People need to feel confident, that we not only say the right things, but also demonstrate right living. As such, Christians should live by example, as our lives speak a louder witness than our words.
2. They set unreasonable standards for people to follow, which they themselves could not maintain. We have to ensure that our judgement and assessment of other people is reasonable. We cannot set unreasonably high standards for people and lord our standards over them. 3. They did their good deeds to be seen by others in public. This is why Jesus said that we don’t need to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). 4. They loved to be esteemed by others and demanded recognition and acknowledgment. Jesus cautioned them to be humble and not to exalt themselves.
5. They put stumbling blocks in the way for people who wanted to serve God. They neither lived in a manner, which would guarantee them a place in eternity, nor did they pave the way for others. This is similar to standing in the way or sinners (Psalm 1:1). 6. They travelled to far distances to find a new convert. When they were finished with this convert, he was equally on his way to hell as they were. Jesus was distraught with their level of hypocrisy, as they were avid tithe payers, but neglected the more important laws. Jesus placed greater emphasis on the need to show justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Jesus described the Pharisees as blind guides who strained over a gnat (tiny insect), yet they were swallowing a huge camel. The emphasis here was that they were ‘majoring on the minor’ or ‘making a mountain out of a molehill.’ While there are fundamental things in scripture, which are important to be emphasised, we should not create unnecessary barriers for people. Three things which Jesus emphasised are justice, mercy and faithfulness. If we can get these three concepts right, then we can truly win people to God. Rules, restrictions and regulations serve as a burden and present barriers to people serving God in freedom.
“neither as being Lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).