How often do you read the Bible as a literal application to your life? So many times I feel like I read it like a good story or metaphor and don’t really listen as if they were being spoken to me. A few weeks ago I spent the weekend watching the gospels on DVD with my youth group. We had originally planned to read through them, but decided to watch them instead. It was amazing to see the different interpretations of Jesus by Directors/Actors. My favorite is the book of Matthew played by Bruce Marchiano. And as he came to Matthew 23 and the power of his performance embraced me, I asked “who would this be today?” I didn’t just see the “Woe to you” as condemnation of the pharisees of Jesus’ time, but convicting myself and how Jesus would speak to Christianity as a whole today. So I took some time to go over Matthew 23 adapt it to today to apply to myself and other Christians.
Then Jesus said to the members sitting in the pews: “The Christians sit in political places of power. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for people to see. They make the knots on their ties wide and their dresses modest, they love the place of honor at city council meetings and the most important seats on the school board. They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Reverend’ by others.
“But you are not to be called ‘Reverend,’ for you have only one who is revered and holy, and you are all brothers and sisters. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, Jesus. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the church, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the stained glass in it is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the stained glass, or the church that makes the glass sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the church swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You give of your income to political campaigns, charity organizations, and mega-churches. But you have neglected the more important matters of Christianity — love, justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You point out spelling errors in a sermon without hearing the message.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Christians! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
“Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You hold days of prayer and fundraisers for those who suffer from poverty and injustice. And you say, ‘Our children will be proud that we have saved a life.’ So you testify against yourselves that there are innocents being murdered by famine and disease. Yet you sleep safely in your beds and watch cable television and throw excess food away.
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and scholars. Some of them you will call heretics; others you will mock and discredit in the media because you disagree with them. And so upon you will come all the innocent blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of those tortured in the Inquisition to the blood of the children dying daily in Africa, whom you ignore. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
“America, America, you who call yourself a Christian Nation, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you bankrupt. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.”