Bible Reading: Matthew 23:1-22
The Pharisees were a group of Jews who believed in the practice of keeping God’s Law (given to Moses) by keeping man’s law (given by their leaders). They were active recruiters…trying to convince people to join them in following their way of practicing the Jewish faith. But Jesus said that they had become so absorbed in their way of practicing the faith…that they had lost the true meaning of the faith. The practice had become more important than the faith. And it gets even worse. Because they thought that they were the only ones who knew the correct way to practice the faith…and because they were the only ones who were correctly practicing the faith…they began to see themselves as the only ones who had the faith. And it gets even worse. Because they saw themselves as being the only ones who had the faith…they began to see themselves as even more important than the faith, itself. So, the reality of the situation was…that while they said that they were trying to win people over to the faith…they were actually trying to win people over to their way of practicing the faith. It had become all about them. About what they said. About what they did.
For this attitude…Jesus judged the Pharisees harshly. Eight times in this chapter He said, “Woe to you…” The word “woe” speaks of judgment. Why was Jesus so adamantly opposed to what they were doing? Because instead of leading people to God…they were actually leading people away from God (:15). They had allowed their practice of the faith, their religious system, to become more important than God, Himself. For this…Jesus pronounced the most severe judgment that He ever spoke.
How did Jesus counter the practices of the Pharisees? He told the people that instead of trying to get other people to serve you…you should serve them. The Pharisees thought that the rigorous practice of keeping law after law was a sign that they were keeping the faith. But Jesus denounced that teaching and said that the true sign that you are keeping the faith is the fact that you are serving other people.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
What if I told you that I know a way for you to become very, very rich? And get this…not only will you become rich…but you will help other people become rich, as well…your family, your friends, loads of people. Oh, and one more thing…it’s easy to do. Do I have your attention? Let me show you something.
You are going to build a Money Pyramid. It’s easy. Everyone does the same thing. Here is how it works.
- You pay a $100 entry fee to be on Level 1 of the Money Pyramid.
- You recruit 10 people to be on Level 2…they each pay the $100 entry fee to you because you recruited them (Level 1).
- They each recruit 10 people to be on Level 3…they each pay the $100 entry fee to the person who recruited them (Level 2) and they pay $10 to you (Level 1).
- They each recruit 10 people to be on Level 4…they each pay the $100 entry fee to the person who recruited them (Level 3), they pay $10 more to the person who recruited them (Level 2), and they pay $10 to you (Level 1).
- They each recruit 10 people to be on Level 5…they each pay the $100 entry fee to the person who recruited them (Level 4), they pay $10 more to the person who recruited them (Level 3), they pay $10 the person on the next level up (Level 2), and they pay $10 to you (Level 1).
- And on, and on it grows. You Pyramid continues to get more and more Levels.
Now get this. By the time your Pyramid reaches Level 5…you will have made $1 million dollars. And all it cost you was $100 and a little time. And, there will be 10,000 people in your Pyramid.
But there are a few very dangerous problems with this plan…
- Each Level down the Pyramid people make less, and less money. Most of the money goes to the people on the top Levels and most of the people on the lower Levels end up losing their money. That means that as the Pyramid grows taller, it starts to crumble at the bottom.
- By Level 8 there would be 1 billion people involved. That means that Level 9 would require 10 billion people…there are only 7.6 billion people in the world (2017)…that means the Pyramid crashes.
- There is no real product being sold…just the exchange of money. It is called a Pyramid Scheme. It is a money scam and it is illegal. If you were playing Monopoly you would immediately go to Jail. And there is no Get Out of Jail Free card.
Think about it. It sounds so good. You are going to make a lot of money and at the same time you are going to help a lot of other people make a lot of money. At least, some people…but not all of the people. In fact, most of the people will invest their money…and wind up losing it. But those people at the top are going to make a lot, a lot, a lot of money. At least…for a while. Because eventually two things are going to happen. One, the Pyramid will crash. It just cannot continue to grow taller because the bottom level begins to crumble. Secondly, because this kind of a Pyramid Scheme is illegal, against the law…people are going to wind up in jail…and, they will lose all the money that they made.
So, then…why would anyone ever be a part of a Money Pyramid? Well, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt…and say that they didn’t know that it wouldn’t work and they didn’t know that it is illegal. But let me give you a real reason why many people do so. Greed. Greed. When someone tries to recruit them…even though they may have heard about things like this before and have been told to not get involved…it just sounds so good. Greed. They think, “Maybe it didn’t work in the past. But what if this plan works? What if this plan is different? Think of all that money!” Greed. But what about the people on the bottom Levels? What will happen to them if it doesn’t work? They will lose their money. You think, “Well, they should know better. It’s their own fault. I can’t be responsible for their mistakes.” What happened to wanting to help other people? Sounds to me like the truth is that you only want to help yourself. Greed.
Just a word of wisdom from old Granddad. If anyone ever approaches you with a “Get Rich Quick Scheme” like this…RUN!!! Don’t walk. Don’t jog. Run like the wind. It will not work. You will get hurt. And, you could wind up hurting a lot of other people.
Now, what in the world does this have to do with Jesus and the Bible? Well, there was a group of people around in His day that had built a Pyramid Scheme…a Religious Pyramid Scheme. They were called the Pharisees. They were one of the most powerful groups of the leaders of the Jewish people. They were very committed to recruiting people to join their group and follow their teaching. They told people that their way was God’s way. They told people that if they joined their group and did the things they told them to do that God would bless them. But Jesus said that they were a Pyramid Scheme. You see, the only ones who really benefited were the ones at the top…the leaders of the Pharisees. Here are some of the things that they did…
- They demanded that the people obey very strict laws and do everything that they told them to do. And yet, the leaders of the Pharisees didn’t do these things, themselves.
- They demanded that everyone give lots of money to the Temple…even poor, old widows…and then they used the money to benefit, themselves.
- They would give their promise to the people to do one thing…then turn around and say that they could do another thing because they had made another promise to someone more important.
- They decided for themselves which of God’s laws were most important. And it always seemed that the laws that benefited them were most important.
It was like a Pyramid Scheme. It was religious greed. Everything benefited the people at the top.
Jesus turned the pyramid upside down. He said that the greatest people are not those at the top of the Pyramid…who are making demands and giving orders. The greatest people are the ones at that bottom. Those that think about other people first. Those that think about other people before they think even about themself. The greatest people are those that serve other people.
- People who serve others are not trying to be noticed for what they have done and get recognition.
- They don’t demand that people bow down to them, kiss their hand, or call them by special titles.
- They aren’t trying to use people to make money.
- They are not trying to make people think that they are better than other people.
No. People who serve other people…do just that. They serve other people, not themself.
Stop and think about this. At the end of this day…will someone else’s life be better because you served them?
Love you more than bunches and bunches,