Religion on Parade

Text: Matthew 23:5-12


I.         Jesus condemns the Pharisees many times and in our reading he condemns them for using religion as a way for people to notice them. - Matthew 23:5

            A.        What is a phylactery (or some translations say frontlet)?

                        1.         It comes from passages like Exodus 13:6-9.

                                    a.         The sign or monument or memorial was taken literally.

                                    b.         But notice that it was the Passover meal that was the sign on their hand and forehead.

                        2.         Deuteronomy 6:4-12

                                    a.         Again the statement in verse 8 was taken literally, despite the preceding statements that it was to be in their hearts.

                                    b.         God said that the teachings of God and his word was to always to be a topic of conversation so that they would not forget God.

                                    c.         Instead of putting God’s word in their hearts they literally bound them on their arms and foreheads.

                        3.         There were phylacteries for both the head and the hand. It was a leather box, cube shaped, closed with an attached flap and bound to the person by a leather band. One was bound to the inner side of the left arm so when the arm was bent, the phylactery would rest over the heart. The knot fastening it to the arm was done in the form of the letter yodh and ending in a string that was wound around the middle finger of the hand. Inside the box were copies of the passages Exodus 13:9, 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, and 11:18 – the passages stating the keeping of God’s word near at hand. A second leather box was bound in the center of the forehead. The knot on this band was done in the form of the letter daleth with the letter shin at each end of the box. These letters, including the one on the arm forms the Hebrew word “shadday”, which the word for the Almighty.

                        4.         Elaborate ceremonies were developed for attaching the phylacteries. The arm was bound first and then the head while quotations from the Scriptures were recited. They were worn by every male over 13 years old at the time of morning prayer, except on Sabbaths and festival days, since such days were sufficient reminders of the commands, statutes, and ordinances of God by themselves.

            B.        What are Tassels?

                        1.         Twists of threads on the corners of their garments to remind them of the law of God - Numbers 15:38-40

                        2.         It seem to become the custom to line the borders of the outer garment with fringe.

            C.        What Jesus said was that the Pharisees and Scribes to show their piousness would use wide bands and large boxes for their phylacteries and make their fringes extra long.

                        1.         They did it to be noticed by others, so others would see them as religious men.

                        2.         As if the size of the things they wore would reflect their piousness.

II.        This is not the only way they showed off their religion

            A.        They expected places of honor because of their position in the Jewish religion.

            B.        They expected special greetings when people met them. They especially loved the title “Rabbi”, which means “teacher.”

            C.        Matthew 6:1-4 - They made sure everyone knew when they gave aid to the poor.

            D.        Matthew 6:5-8 - They prayed publicly so others would see them

            E.        Luke 20:47 - They made long prayers so others would notice

III.       God doesn’t need a show, he sees the heart. Only men look for a show

            A.        The Pharisees justified themselves in men’s eyes, but forgot that God sees the heart.

                        1.         In other words, they did things outwardly that other people see, but neglected to understand that God knows everything, even the things others may not see.

            B.        John 5:41-44 - Jesus did not seek the honor of men and therefore men did not accept him.

                        1.         Even those inclined to believe on him would not admit it before others - John 12:42-43

                        2.         This is why confession is required for salvation.

            C.        Philippians 2:2-3 - Nothing should be done from selfish motives or empty pride.

            D.        Selfish motives breeds evil - James 3:14-16

IV.      How Christians should behave

            A.        Christians purposely pick the lowly - Luke 14:7-11

            B.        Our prayers should reflect our knowledge of our true position before God - Luke 18:9-14

            C.        Our righteous deeds and prayers are done in private - Matthew 6:1-8

V.        Yet the desire to show off our religion still exists

            A.        Have you noticed that few churches meet in plain, simple buildings?

                        1.         What drives the desire for large, ornate buildings with stain glass windows?

                        2.         Is it the desire to please God? Or do the bronze name plates saying “donated by . . . ” have something to do with it?

            B.        Have you noticed that religious leaders have special robes calling attention to their office?

                        1.         Is this found in the word of God?

                        2.         Is God impressed with such attire or is there another motivation?

            C.        We can also mention the use of special titles by religious leaders.

                        1.         Men are called “reverend”, “pastor”.

                        2.         It seems people are not satisfied with this. Now a days it is “right-most reverend” or “senior pastor”

                        3.         When I object to titles, people say “we just want to give respect.” Yet, I as a man do not deserve such respect, especially by my fellow men.

            D.        Lay people also get into the act

                        1.         I can’t begin to number the people I have seen wearing crosses or other symbols of Christianity, and yet they speak foully and act unbecomingly of a follower of Christ.

                        2.         How does the wearing the symbols of a faith make a person religious? It doesn’t!

                        3.         For whom is the wearing for? God? Or to impress others with your claims to a belief?

            E.        Lately there have been gatherings at the flag poles at schools for prayers.

                        1.         I don’t object to prayers said at school or in behalf of schools, but why at the flag pole - out front where everyone sees?

VI.      Our religion may be seen by others, but it is not for show.

            A.        It should never be done to impress others.

            B.        It should not be done just to declare to others “I am a Christian.”

            C.        God’s light shines through us because we are Christians and not because we wear Christian adornments - Matthew 6:14-16

            D.        Paul’s prayer is that Christ dwells in your hearts and not on your sleeves - Ephesians 3:14-19