Matthew 23 is a chapter that in its essence a warning against hypocrisy. Jesus is speaking to the crowds and to his disciples but the group that he speaks about is the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The entire passage is a warning to them; however, it is also a warning to all people of faith that call Jesus their Lord.
The first passage that spoke to me is 23:5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long”. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them ton the door frames of your houses and on your gates”. The essence of what this passage is imploring us to do, is to not forget the commands of the Lord. The Pharisees and some teachers of the law in the times of Christ made these symbols or reminders very prominent so they would be looked upon as holy simply because of what they were wearing. It used to be like Christians wearing gold crosses. Today a cross is not a necessarily a symbol that denotes that the wearer is a disciple of Christ or even believes in any deity, it can be simply a fashion statement.
As a side note – They word phylacteries reference “bind them on your foreheads”. This was followed by some Jews with a box that was bound by a headband on their foreheads that contained the Law of God. Some would make them very big so to draw attention to themselves and appear “holy”.
I wear a tassel made by a Jewish man on my wrist so as to remind me of the laws of God and to spur me to honor those laws not simply as 614 laws that are a list of does and don’ts but as a guide that enables us to live a life free of some of the downfalls that would otherwise afflict us if we violated those laws. There are many passages that God gives a promise of good things to us if we follow His commands, one verse is Deuteronomy 4:40, “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long…” Some may attempt to discount the promise but if you think about it rationally it makes perfect sense. If you go about life stealing, robbing, lying and killing, then chances are your life will not go well and you will not live long in any land.
I also am having morning devotionals with my three daughters in the morning after I work out and before I leave for the day. I am attempting to put Deuteronomy 6 into practice by talking about God’s commands and story to my kids when we wake up. During Church a few weeks ago God laid on my heart to also be intentional in praying with my family. So, we do morning TRIPS with God. T – Thanks God, R – Repentance, I – Intercession, P – Praise, S – Sanctification (asking God to help us toward maturity). It is going well and I thank God for giving me that.
I pray that I not simply lead my children with my words but that I lead with my actions, which is what they will remember years from now after they forget most of what I said.