1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. 9 And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
You’ve heard that before. You either heard it from your parents or you’ve used it yourself on your own kids. Our kids catch us doing something we’ve told them not to do and they call us on it. Uh oh. What do we do now? We want to keep doing whatever it is we’re doing, but we don’t want our kids to do it for whatever reason. So, we drop the bomb.
Do as I say, not as I do.
While it’s not a good thing for us to do to our kids or for our parents to have done to us, it’s way worse in this verse. The Pharisees were a group of men who seem to have taken great joy in making the people kill themselves trying to live up to all the rules and regulations they had come up with. There were thousands and thousands of rules they had to keep. It was virtually impossible to keep them all. In fact, it was impossible.
Regardless of the impossibility of keeping all the rules, the Pharisees put tremendous pressure on people to keep all the rules. The problem was, they didn’t keep them all themselves. They would make it easier for themselves to do or not do whatever it was, but they wouldn’t cut any slack to the people.
They loved their power, and they used it to their benefit. They used their power to get the best seats at banquets where they would get the best food and the best treatment. They used their power to get treated nicely in the marketplace, probably even getting free food.
This was the ultimate “Do as I say, not as I do” conundrum. And Jesus saw it. And he taught his disciples how they should actually live.
How were they supposed to live? How are we supposed to live?
We aren’t supposed to get power and hold it over others. We aren’t supposed to have people call us names that make ourselves feel big and others small. We aren’t supposed to sit in the place of honor at banquets to get special treatment. We aren’t supposed to exalt ourselves.
Exaltation is saved for Christ alone. What do we do? We are supposed to humble ourselves. What does that mean? We make ourselves lower, and we lift others higher. We make ourselves lower and lift Jesus higher. When we lift Jesus up, people will be drawn to Him. When we lift ourselves up, we’re getting in the way of what God wants to do through us.
How do we lift others up? One way is to do whatever we can to make their burden lighter. Sometimes there are physical things we can do to help (buying groceries, mowing their lawn, changing the oil in their car), sometimes they just need some emotional support and we can be a shoulder for them. There are times when we can help them relationally by just being a friend and caring, or helping them find Christians they can relate to.
All this can pave the way for us to be able to help them in the most important way – spiritually. And when we can help them in this way, we help lead them to a totally different life.
The life Jesus offers.
What is the life Jesus offers? It’s the opposite of the life the Pharisees offered. This is the life Jesus offers: (Matthew 11:28-30)
28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.
We have to live this way. We don’t get to tell others to live this way. We don’t get to tell them to do as I say, not as I do. We do it. It is only by living this way that we will be in a place to help others lives this way.
Have you discovered this kind of life? Are you living by rules and regulations, or by grace and truth? Are you trying to do all this on your own? If so, you’re being proud. You’re doing it for the attention you get.
Instead, be humble. Walk humbly with God, exalt him. Don’t try to keep all the rules, instead just spend your life trying to make much of Jesus. The more you make of Jesus, the better off you’ll be.