Like a Drunk Addiction Counselor
They preach, but do not practice. Matthew 23:3
Someone once asked me if I’d continue writing this blog if I relapsed. The thought horrified me. I couldn’t go on writing. It would be so dishonest. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that if my mind was in that place, that I would probably lie about it, continuing as if nothing was wrong. I would hide my failure and try all the harder to shine a light on the failures of others, distracting from my own disaster.
Do I live perfectly now? No, of course not. I’ve not relapsed, but I still fail regularly at other things. I’m prideful. I eat too much. I’m still selfish. What makes those failures any different than a relapse? Why do I feel a relapse should disqualify me from writing this blog, but other failures don’t?
In today’s passage, Jesus exposes the gross hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who assumed the role of spiritual leadership, while failing to live as they asked others to live. It’s not just that they were flawed. Everyone has flaws and everyone sins. Jesus didn’t say they had to be perfect to lead. The Pharisee’s crime was that they ignored their own failings. They demanded behavior from their followers that they didn’t even try to live up to themselves.
This would be like an addiction counselor getting drunk while trying to tell others how to remain sober. This is profound hypocrisy, dishonesty, and arrogance. This is what offended Jesus so much about the Pharisees.
The passage makes me wonder if Jesus came back today, who would he find to be hypocritical like the Pharisees? We believe in truth, but we’re still profoundly flawed ourselves. Often, to protect our own ego, we use truth to point out the failings of others, while ignoring our own. We point to the really bad sins around us, while we fail to love God above all and we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Do we condemn the sins of others while we fail to live as Christ commanded? If so, then we’re like the Pharisees. The Pharisee uses God’s word as a tool to condemn others, elevating himself. The true disciple points the word of God at his own life first, daily abandoning himself to follow Christ.