Don't be a scribe!

38 And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." (Mark 12:38-40 ESV)

As someone who quite often wears long robes for services, has people call him reverend and father fairly often and has a job that at least used to have a certain standing in society, when I was preaching on these verses in Mark recently I felt a little uncomfortable. I don't think I've devoured widows houses, but I'm pretty sure I've prayed for effect sometimes!

It's part of the section in Mark where the clash between old Israel and its leaders and new Israel and its leader is becoming so intense that it will lead to crucifixion and so the end of old Israel. The challenge in these verses is to see the hypocrisy of the "respectable" religious leaders and recognise their coming judgement.

I think I was right to be jumpy. If we're Christian leaders we should follow our king, who came not to serve but to be served (Mark 10:45). Seeking status and honour isn't really the name of the game!

I know it can be argued that robes in the Church of England were originally designed to be plain rather than impressive and that the heart attitude is what matters. But how easy to start to think they are a badge of my importance. I suppose you can argue the "reverend" title is respect for leaders, but it's not a title I should want to give myself, nor one I want to hear about myself. In fact, with all the aspects of the scribes that Jesus condemns, there's plenty to feel uncomfortable about for church leaders.

I think it might be good for all of us who are in leadership in churches to check ourselves against these verses pretty regularly.


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