They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders… (Matt 23:4).
Jesus offers a stern warning against the teaching and practice of the Pharisees. He says, they do not practice what they preach. Instead, they tie heavy burdens and place them upon people. Their life is really all about a show. Their walks with God are not for His glory, but instead for their own personal benefit. Truly, they do not understand grace. Therefore, they are extremely legalistic, and immensely prideful.
There are modern day Pharisees among us as well. People who claim Christ, but are much more concerned with their outward appearance before others. They try to show that they are committed to God, so they only wear things that they believe would be acceptable to God. Should we dress modestly, yes absolutely, but if what we wear is really all about covering something up, like pride within our hearts, then we have missed the point entirely.
If our appearance before others becomes more important than extending the grace and love of God, there’s an issue within our hearts that needs addressing. No amount of “cover up” will do. We can try to dress to impress, or be overly modest, rocking our favorite Christian t-shirts and wearing large cross necklaces. This doesn’t make us more Christian. It very well could reveal something deeper and more dangerous that the heart has clung to. You see, inner pride is a dangerous, insidious hiding place for many people and it always causes them to hurt others.
Since there’s always a need to protect their hidden pride, they’ll lash out at others in their unhealth, trying to convince them that their way is right. If others don’t follow their understanding of God, than they will be shamed, and manipulated into thinking that without this person’s misguided understanding of God, they are surely doomed for destruction.
If you’ve ever been around someone who has tried to control or manipulate you in the church, please understand that this is not from God. This stems from an un-surrendered area of their heart, a deep hidden pride that seeks only to destroy the one in whom in abides and the children of God within its reach.
Be wise, and do not give way to the deception of a legalistic heart that’s trying to pull you away from grace and into shame. Understand that this issue, this burden, is not yours to carry. Truly, Jesus’ burden is light and it is life-giving to all who carry it.
Lord, I surrender myself to you. I know there are false teachers among us. People who tie up heavy burdens and weigh others down into the grave trying to shame them into repentance. Father, if any ounce of me becomes like this, please show me so that I can repent and be filled with grace for others instead. Protect your flock from such destructive people who are really just blind guides leading people away from grace, in Jesus name, Amen.