(Lectionary 31) From “Saving the Ants”
Matt. 23:1-12 ” …The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Preparation: Bring a phylactery and a prayer shawl, or pictures of each to help illustrate.
We know that God is love and that God sent Jesus into the world to save us because of his great love for us. But is God always happy with what we do? (Let children answer.) Jesus loves us, but sometimes the way we act can make him sad. We know that our parents love us, but if we do something wrong, we’re going to get scolded, aren’t we?
In Matthew, chapter 23, Jesus was talking to the crowds that had gathered around him, and he had some advice for them. He told the people to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees preach from the Bible, but he warned the people not to act like they do. Jesus said, “They crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden” (Matt. 23:4 NLT).
The burdens that the Pharisees were putting on the people were many little laws that the people were supposed to follow. For example, they expected the people to bring offerings of all kinds of food and spices. If someone used ten cups of flour to make bread one day, the Pharisees wanted them to bring one cup of flour as an offering to the temple. Most people were poor and worked hard all day long. They couldn’t take the time to obey such laws. The Pharisees were rich and had time to obey their own laws.
Jesus scolded the Pharisees for making a big show of how they worshiped and how often they went to the temple. Many Jews wore little boxes strapped to their forehead with a band of cloth; it was called a phylactery and it contained scriptures written on little pieces of paper. The Pharisees wore these also, but to make them more noticeable, they made them very large. The Pharisees also wore prayer shawls with very long fringes so that people would notice them and admire them.
The problem with all this was that the Pharisees didn’t really care about impressing God. The Pharisees wanted to impress their neighbors instead. In other words, they were big showoffs. Do you think God is impressed by a showoff? (Let children answer.) God is pleased with the opposite of a showoff. To be the greatest in God’s eyes is to be a humble servant. God wants us to serve him willingly just because we love him, not because we want other people to see the good things that we’re doing.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, may we always keep our eyes on you and not on ourselves. Help us to be your humble servants.