“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
My fifth-grade teacher loved old adages. She had one for every occasion.
When the first student finished lunch and was first out to recess? Early bird gets the worm!
Not sure which library book you want to check out? Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Two students betraying each other? Two wrongs don’t make a right.
When we had a big mess to clean up? Many hands make light work.
And once, when a student wanted to play the blame game, she wisely said, “Remember, when you point a finger at someone else, you still have three fingers pointing back at you.” Quickly, every student pointed to test the teacher’s statement, including me. One finger away, three fingers toward me.
This gave me pause and a valuable lesson in self-reflection that has served me throughout my life. How quickly have I been pointing the finger and blaming someone else before reflecting on my own actions, values and beliefs? How have I disobeyed myself? When have I acted like the Pharisees, not recognizing Jesus for who He is? Have I been a hypocrite?
Notice the way Jesus speaks directly and powerfully to the leaders of the church in this final woe. It’s quite different from the gentle and compassionate way he spoke to his followers and disciples. To me, it seems Jesus is teaching a bit of “tough love” here, saying in so many words: practice what you preach. He is imploring them to reflect on their actions and ask themselves if their actions match their words, beliefs, or values. Can the leaders of the church—teachers themselves—be teachable? Can we be teachabl
If you were in the Pharisees’ shoes, would you heed Jesus’s teaching? I would like to think that I would, but if I’m being honest with myself, I can think of more than a few times when I have been quick to pass judgment—sometimes without fully understanding the situation. Other times, I have acted on emotion or impulse and regretted it. One finger away, three toward me. Pause and reflect. How can I best honor Jesus in this situation?
- Ask yourself where in your life you have judged others before reflecting on your own beliefs.
- Pray for a teachable heart. Psalm 86:11-13 Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness, give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Today, let’s try to grasp the full meaning of this passage by comparing translations. Pull up the YouVersion Bible app or visit Biblegateway.com, to find a bunch of different translations. What new insights stand out to you after you read one or two other translations?