Often, we find ourselves at points in our lives where we must obey the instructions of those who do not practice what they preach, it is a humbling process to go through because we are forced to acknowledge that what they are asking is right in and of its self and by their authority but that them also setting double standards makes it hard for us to want to obey them because they themselves do not follow their own standards. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel reading that while we should listen to the the authorities around us by, “…observ[ing] all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” I was reminded of the gospel reading a few Sundays ago that tells us to “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 12:17) Jesus teaches us that we should, “…not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy it… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)”. All of this reminds us as Christians that we should practice what we preach because people should know us not by the sincerity of our words but rather the sincerity of our actions.
Jesus further goes on to tell us that they (the Pharisees), “…tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. [because] All their works are performed to be seen.” Here we are reminded that we should,
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret… And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. (Matthew 6:1-5).”
No should we, “…love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces…” because we, “…have but one teacher, and… are all brothers.” Instead, “… when [we] pray, [we should] go into [our] room, close the door and pray to [our] Father, who is unseen. Then [our] Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward [us]. (Matthew 6:6)” When we do actions of good will because of our sincere faith in Christ and his love for us, only then are we doing what Christ has truly called us to do.
As a Dominican and a Christian who chooses to wear a cross as a testament to my order and faith, I find it crucial to make that not only am I trying my best as a Christian to practice what I preach but also that when I do things of good will or things religious in nature, that I am doing them to honor Christ and his sacrifice for me and not to honor myself as unfortunately too many Christians of today’s world do. As my best friend’s mom used to say to us all the time when we were growing up, ‘…people should not be able to tell that you are Christian because they see you go to church every Sunday or because you wear a cross around your neck, rather they should know we are Christians by our love and compassion towards others.’ If we can do all these things with Christ’s help Jesus finishes this we gospel by telling us that, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Help us to show others that we are Christians by our love and compassion to all humankind so that they may receive your love and your compassion.
Also, help us to humble ourselves so that those around us may understand the humility of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
And now, Father, we ask that you send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord,
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever.
(Adapted from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.)