We are tempted to gloss over the first words of Jesus in this significant part of Matthew’s Gospel: “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the Scriptures. So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” (New Living Translation)
This is one of the significant things that we need to learn about Jesus. It is easy, with a superficial reading of the Scriptures, to believe that the Jews did not preach the truth about God, and that Jesus came to set them right, and that’s why he was crucified. In this one sentence, which it is easy to miss, Jesus is telling us otherwise.
In this passage, Jesus addresses two temptations of which we who are in the church (particularly as leaders) are also culpable. We enjoy the attention and status of being upfront and being listened to, but sometimes we are unaware that we are not practicing what we preach. And we may leave other people to do the less attractive and unrecognised tasks when Jesus says “The greatest among you must be a servant… those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”