I just happened to be reading through the gospel of Matthew when I received the afore mentioned epistle. This verse jumped off the page and lodged itself deep in my heart:
Everything they (the Pharisees) do is done for men to see… (Matthew 23:5)
Jesus taught that prayer, fasting, and giving should be done in private. Paul said that we should do everything with all our heart as unto the Lord, not man. Why do we do the things we do? Who do we do them for? Would we still pray, serve, and give even if no human would ever know we did it? Would we do it if we never got a plaque, a position, a title, or even a pat on the back? Are we willing to live for the applause of heaven or do we require the applause of man?
…they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues. They love…to have men call them "Rabbi." (Matthew 23:6-7)
These verses in Matthew expose the motives of those who do their religion for men to see.
They desire social status.
The Pharisees of old had to have the place of honor in any and every social gathering. It is a sad fact that many Christians today still crave social status. They would rather impress Christian Dior than Christ Jesus. What ever happened to being dead to the world and to not conforming to the pattern of this world?
They demand religious position.
They have to sit on the platform, on deacon row or at least on the front row. Modern Pharisees still love the most important seats in religious meetings. The same yesterday, today, and forever!
They live for ecclesiastical titles.
They cared more about being called "Rabbi" than about performing the duties of a Rabbi. Real ministers will minister whether or not they are given a title. I did the duties of a pastor for years before anyone ever called me pastor.
Am I saying there is anything wrong with social status, religious position, or ecclesiastical titles? No. But, there is something wrong when these become the motivating forces of our lives and ministry. There is something wrong when we desire to be seen by men.
I remember a Nike commercial many years ago featuring a then young Andre Agassi. The fast-paced commercial showed Andre making spectacular shot after spectacular shot. It showed Andre's then signature long hair, multiple earrings, neon shoes, and denim tennis shorts. With the Nike logo on screen these words appeared: IMAGE IS EVERYTHING.
Maybe for tennis stars and Pharisees, image is everything. But, for the Christian, integrity is everything; image is nothing. We do all we do, not to be seen by men, but to glorify God.