By Allen White
Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
Insecure people need to feel they are better than others. They like to brag and show off. They like to keep others guessing simply because they like other people to think about them. They like to intrigue simply because they enjoy the attention. TMZ was made for them.
This passage is kind of funny to me, because the things that were so valued by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day really don’t make any sense to us today. Honestly, most of us wouldn’t recognize a phylactery if it hit us on the head. We don’t even know how to pronounce it.
Phylacteries came out of a literal interpretation of the Law. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 11:18). An interpretation of these words would mean to “get God’s Word into your thoughts.” The religious leaders took this literally and would put slips of paper containing verses in leather boxes, and then attach them to their heads.
If God’s Word wasn’t in their head, at least it was right next door. Somehow it might seep in by osmosis. I don’t believe that this will start any new Christian trends, but I’m also never surprised.
While the religious customs in these verses aren’t meaningful to us, the question is whether we do spiritual things out of sincerity or for show. Is our motive to impress or to inspire? The problem is that by drawing attention to ourselves, we draw attention away from God. For some, our religious behavior might even put an obstacle in their path to God.
What do you try to do that lets people know you’re okay spiritually (or superior)? Do you raise your hands in worship out of routine? Do you “spontaneously” do the same thing every Sunday? Do you dress a certain way? Do you talk a different way at church than you do in other places?
What part of your reputation is necessary for you to feel okay about yourself? Do you need to blend in? Or, do you need to stand out? Do you need to do everything just right? Or, do you need to be outrageous?
God wants to entirely fulfill your life. God wants you to be secure and confident in who He has created you to be. God desires for you to have a quiet strength that doesn’t require bragging or boasting. God wants to give you the life that you’ve dreamed of. Are you willing to receive it?
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