“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple 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" (Matthew 23:16-22).
Jesus attempted to show the leaders they were majoring in minors by emphasizing and teaching principles that seemed spiritual but were not. What does this tell us about God's expectations for leaders in and out of the Church?
- God is the source of authoritative teaching on what's right and wrong. That source is embodied in Jesus, whom the leaders were contradicting and rejecting. They neither understood Jesus' heart or the truth He represented.
- Teachers and leaders must be able to learn principles and then properly apply them to real-life situations that aren't specifically addressed by those principles. For example, some aspects of modern life and ministry aren't specifically mentioned in the Bible. God expects His leaders to address and adapt those modern aspects according to the timeless guidelines from His Word.
- A good example of this would be social media and technology. Many leaders today reject or limit their use of technology and assume God approves. Yet, Paul and others used the technology of their day (pen, ink, papyrus, and the Roman road and sea system) to address the Church. How can leaders today take God's command to reach the nations and do it using technology? That is an example of the issues address in this woe.
- Jesus labeled the leaders blind (three times in this passage) and had said earlier in Matthew's gospel, "Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14). If leaders can't see where they are going for themselves, they can't lead others to a good place.
Leaders must constantly study to improve their discernment and gather wisdom, so the Jewish leaders were correct in regularly gathering to study, but their blindness caused them to study the wrong things and/or come to wrong conclusions. This points out the importance for all leaders to challenge their "starting points" to ensure they're starting from an accurate, godly point of view.
For example, the Jewish leaders' "starting point" was that God would never heal on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed, they logically concluded from an incorrect starting point that He wasn't from God and had to be executed. In this third woe, the leaders were doing the same thing: starting at the wrong point (swearing by the gift on the altar) and then traveling down the wrong path that led to an erroneous conclusion. Their conclusions were logical but flawed because of their incorrect assumption from which they started.
Do you challenge your starting points to ensure you are basing your leadership on the truth? Are you growing and learning how to apply past experiences and ancient wisdom to daily problems you face? Who do you have in your circle of influence who challenges your thinking, starting points, assumptions, and conclusions? Are you willing and able to change your starting points so you don't lead people astray?