Scripture: Matthew 23:13–26
If you have ever played a game with a child who makes the rules as the game progresses, you know the child almost always wins. I certainly cannot speak for all situations, but when you create the rules, you usually have a good chance to play the part of the boastful winner, at least for a short time.
In the interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees, two things become clear. First, rules are important to the Pharisees. Second, they are most happy when those rules ensure their authority as religious leaders. When Jesus enters the scene in Matthew, however, the Pharisees and their rules quickly look foolish.
In all of their concern for swearing by the gold of the sanctuary and the gift on the altar, the Pharisees have entirely missed out on the command to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in faith. Not only have they diluted the power of faith, but they have made obtaining this diluted faith more difficult at the same time! Faith is rarely easy, but it is frequently simple. Faith is as simple as hoping and waiting for the arrival of a child, as simple as being born in a manger in the midst of a very complicated world, as simple as laying down your net, even as simple as doubting and believing anyway.
God of hope and light, teach us to be still as we wait for a simple beginning. Call us to believe in the grace that is born in a manger. Amen.
December 10 is Human Rights Day.