Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pathetic Performers

…you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?
(Romans 2:21 – ESV)

In Romans 2:17-24, Paul is speaking to people who ought to know better. We have to be on guard here because ironically the very thing Paul is talking about to the Jews, hypocrisy, can happen to us as we study this passage. We can be hypocritical by looking down at the Jews for being hypocritical, and the truth here is that Paul is indicting all hypocrisy. He is just using the Jews as an example because they had the Law and knew God’s commands on a more intimate level than those that only had creation and conscience and so forth. Today we have the benefit of the Bible, and therefore Paul would be speaking to any of us today who are hypocritically self righteous, comparing ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12) and especially back at the Jews (Romans 10:20-23).

He has shown that the Gentiles aren’t good enough, he has shown the moralists that they aren’t good enough, and now he is showing the Jews that they aren’t good enough, that they of all people should be the most moral but that they too are still falling short of God’s standard. Like the Jews, we dumb down the standard to a level we think we make and then cast our eyes in scorn on those less than that supposed standard. But God’s standard is perfection. Applying this today we would say not to talk about how pious you are in the areas that you aren’t tempted in. “I’ve never said a word of profanity in my life.” Don’t fool yourself, you still spew slander, malice, hypocrisy and pride out of the same pure mouth; how about giving up your gossip?” These people are fooling themselves, like the Jews were.

They were called out people, and they acted like it. They approved of what was excellent because they had been taught; we know that Paul thinks this is good, because he prayed for others to be like this as well (Philippians 1:10). They know what is right, and they know they are right. They knew what to teach, they had the truth, and they knew it.

However, much of rabbinical Judaism of Paul’s day interpreted the law so that they thought they were completely justified by the Law. When Paul asks the questions he does in this passage, some of the Jews would say no, they don’t do these things, but Jesus exposed the error of such interpretations (Matthew 5:19-48). God applies His law to both our actions and our attitudes. Sometimes we only want our attitudes evaluated, and sometimes only our actions. God will hold us accountable for both motives and actions.

Paul in essence is saying “so you have the Law, so what?” If you have privileges that makes it worse not better if you do not use them as you should. You have the advantages but you are still falling short. Lets take what Paul says in verses Romans 2:17-24 and restate the points by way of musical metaphor. Using this method we might hear Paul summarize it by saying this:

So you are in the band, know the tune, and sing the song. You’ve played the instrument before, because you’ve been to practice. You are sure you can teach others to play. Then how come your play so poorly, how come it sounds so bad, why do you hit so many wrong notes, and why is your timing so off? You talk about being a great musician, and how good this piece of music is, but you sound awful. You are an embarrassment to the composer and the conductor.

Don’t be a hypocrite here; ask yourself a question. Do you consider yourself a virtuoso performer, do you feel like you are a classic instrument, or do you give all glory to the Maestro?


Rileysowner said...

Excellent post JD. Not only is it personally convicting, but it gave me some thoughts on helpful ways to deal with hypocrisy in my ministry as a pastor.

Anonymous said...

This is a good reminder for everyone. Humility not gossip. Example: sometimes prayer is requested for another and there is a little bit of gossip mixed in with it.
What is sad, people don't see that.

Even So... said...

Can you name that tune?