Matthew 23:1–4 – 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
In Matthew 23, we are watching Jesus speak in relation to the religious teachers of his day. The Savior knows that this group of men is trying to trap him in his words. Jesus knows they want him dead. And Jesus knows that, within just a few days, he will go to the cross to lay down his life to rescue his people.
Interesting to me is the fact that, as the Savior faces down this group of falsely religious men, he warns us against them. And the first warnings against them have to do with the lack of heart in the religious leaders. Jesus does not deny that they have the ability to set policy. But what Jesus points out is that these men neither do what they themselves preach nor do they work in any way to help others.
What makes me want to challenge myself and others as I look at this on an early morning is verse 4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Following the Lord does require things. Honoring Jesus requires life change. True godliness includes that we should turn from sin and turn toward righteousness. And we need religious teachers, faithful Bible teachers, who will point these things out. But, and this is the Savior’s point, the one who is willing to burden others with requirements had also better be one who is willing to work with others to help.
On the Internet and in the church hallways, there are sledgehammer saints. These men and women love to lay down the law on you. They love to tell you what has to change right now if your faith can be taken seriously. But how many of those folks also are willing to stoop with you under the burden and help you carry it? It is easy, super easy, to tell people how wrong they are. It is hard, often frustrating, and deeply time-consuming to actually help a person to change instead of just telling them they have to.
Christian, as you think of your role in the church, are you a genuine helper, a burden-bearer, or are you more a sledgehammer saint and keyboard warrior? I do not think it is hard to see which one Jesus appreciates. No, we do not tolerate sin. Neither do we crush brothers and sisters in the faith who are genuinely wrestling against their sin. May we tell each other the truth, but never stop letting folks know that we are right here with them to help them lift the burden.