“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” ~Jesus, Matthew 23: 32-33
You’d think these words were said to a murderer, or a sexually perverted or promiscuous person, or a thief. But no, Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day.
Wait, did you catch that… Jesus’s harshest words of judgment are to the religious leaders of the day. This should cause the ears of this religious church girl to perk up and listen. Why such harsh words? And what did these religious people do to merit such severe judgment? And how do I make sure I am truly following Jesus and not the path of these anti-Jesus religious people? These are questions I should have asked in my early years of following Jesus.
Even though I fell in love with Jesus early in my life, there grew an inward bent of my soul, slowly and stealthily, that was hardly noticeable. I’m not sure exactly how it started. Maybe it was the subconscious joy I found in the acclaim of people in being such a “good Christian.” Maybe I couldn’t help but notice how much “better” I was than my peers. Somewhere along the way, I began to delight in my good works more than the work of Jesus. My heart started to reflect that of a Pharisee more than Jesus.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
No matter how it started, a root of pride began to grow in my heart and for years it was watered with the praise of others and my own comparison to my peers. I became really good at “being a Christian.” In the morning, I trusted my ability to have a good quiet time and memorize scripture. In the evening, I found peace in my “maturity” to worship with hands raised. I no longer needed Jesus as my savior. My good deeds had become my functional savior. I knew the right words to say, the right things to do to look like the best Jesus-follower out there.