MODELING in BOTH our WORDS and ACTIONS: Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (Matt 23:1-3)
Jesus’ final condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees (the religious super-spiritual people of that time) fills the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew, as He exposes the true hypocrisy of the religious leaders of Israel. Their sitting in Moses’ seat represented the synagogue chair which symbolized the origin and authority of their teaching as they taught the Law of Moses. Generally, their teachings were dependable, but their practice was not. Their creed was better than their conduct. It was a case of high talk and low walk. They did not practice what they preached. They made heavy demands (probably extreme interpretations of the letter of the law) on the people, but would not assist anyone in lifting these intolerable loads.
Thus, the Pharisees and Scribes took the Scriptures at face value, so their instructions were to be followed. So, Jesus warned the people of the Pharisees’ legalism - their tendency to value their own rules and regulations over the Scriptures. They followed their external laws meticulously and ‘appeared’ to be righteous. Yet the people were not to imitate their actions, for although they appeared righteous, their hearts were filled with all kinds of envy, hatred, and malice. Jesus directs His condemnation at hypocritical self-righteousness; full of outward form but devoid of inner spiritual reality.
The Word of God has authority even if the people who teach it lack integrity (vv. 1–3). Our Lord’s standard is that we both do and teach His truth (5:17–20). Those who practice hypocrisy erode their character and do untold damage to others. The tragedy is that hypocrisy blinds people (vv. 16–19, 24, 26) so that they cannot see the Lord, themselves, or other people. Let us be careful that we model our lives both in words and action every day!
"You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." (1 Thess. 2:10-12)