Jesus and Church Staff (Pharisees and Sadducees)

Look it up – the ONLY people whom Jesus ever criticized were church staff (that would be the Pharisees and Sadducees during Jesus’ life on earth). He never laid low anyone else, but he really came down hard on the Temple leaders. He wasn’t even discreet about it – most times he said it straight to their faces. In one chapter alone, he takes it to them (these verses are called the “Seven Woes” by scholars):

  1. They taught about God but did not love God — they did not enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, nor did they let others enter. (Matt 23:13-14)
  2. They preached God but converted people to dead religion, thus making those converts twice as much sons of hell as they themselves were. (Matt 23:15)
  3. They taught that an oath sworn by the temple or altar was not binding, but that if sworn by the gold ornamentation of the temple, or by a sacrificial gift on the altar, it was binding. The gold and gifts, however, were not sacred in themselves as the temple and altar were, but derived a measure of lesser sacredness by being connected to the temple or altar. The teachers and Pharisees worshipped at the temple and offered sacrifices at the altar because they knew that the temple and altar were sacred. How then could they deny oath-binding value to what was truly sacred and accord it to objects of trivial and derived sacredness? (Mat 23:16-22)
  4. They taught the law but did not practice some of the most important parts of the law — justice, mercy, faithfulness to God. They obeyed the minutiae of the law such as tithing spices but not the real meat of the law. (Matt 23:23-24)
  5. They presented an appearance of being ‘clean’ (self-restrained, not involved in carnal matters), yet they were dirty inside: they seethed with hidden worldly desires, carnality. They were full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matt 23:25-26)
  6. They exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were in fact not righteous: their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. They were full of wickedness. They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. (Matt 23:27-28)
  7. They professed a high regard for the dead prophets of old, and claimed that they would never have persecuted and murdered prophets, when in fact they were cut from the same cloth as the persecutors and murderers: they too had murderous blood in their veins. (Matt 23:29-36)

That is hard stuff to hear – imagine if it were directed at you. How would that make you feel? Pretty bad. Now imagine how you would feel if Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, were to say that to you. You’d feel even worse.

Church staffs have very high expectations – set for them by God and to which they agree (or else they wouldn’t have accepted to serve with a church). Everyone who serves on a church staff should take a moment every week to step back and ask, “Have I done anything this week for which Jesus would criticize me?” If yes, then address that issue head on; if not, be grateful but also make sure you’re not covering something just because you don’t want to address it.

We all fail – we’re all human. The key is how we react when we know we’ve failed God. If we try to cover it up – expect Jesus to get in your face about it. Never be a hypocrite like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Recognize your shortcomings, be a leader, and own up to them. People will respect you and God more if you acknowledge that you aren’t perfect and that God is, and always will be, working on you.

Lead On!