Written on 05/08/2024
Christian Dunn

Verse: Matthew 3:7-10

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist is calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. When he talks about Abraham being their father, what he is referencing is the fact that, when challenged, they would claim their standing as Jews as a protection against the accusations. And John is saying, "just because you are in the line of Abraham, doesn't excuse your bad behavior." We learn more from Jesus later that these leaders looked good on the outside, but were corrupt, sinful, and manipulative. They put burdens on their followers that they weren't willing to carry.

I think we can apply this passage in two ways this morning. First, where have you seen this in Christian leaders today? Maybe you've even had a leader in your life whom you found out was in fact looking good on the outside, but full of greed, or sexual immorality, or corruption on the inside. I know that happened to me once when I was a young adult. It is disorienting. When people you look up to as spiritual leaders are exposed it hurts. It can impact your faith, make you question Christianity, make you angry, and more. How has this phenomenon affected you? Are there any leaders who have let you down? Do you need to seek healing for the damage that's done in your life?

Another point is that as Christians, we should be calling out and holding accountable leaders who do these things. Both John the Baptist and Jesus had no problem calling these hypocritical leaders on their sin, and telling them to repent. Over the years there has been a bad theology in some circles that "respecting your leaders" means "not speaking anything against your leaders." This has led to a spiritualized protection of a person in power doing harm. I think one practical thing we can take from this is that it is OK to hold leaders accountable. I'm not saying we go on a witch hunt, but no leader should be above being held accountable.

Secondly, I think we can also turn this inward and look at ourselves (always a good idea!). Is there anything in my life that doesn't line up with what I say I believe? Is there any hypocrisy? Is there anything I'm hiding? There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, but there is conviction. It can be easy to follow Jesus with MOST of our lives, but hold out a small piece that we aren't ready to surrender to him yet. Is there anything in your life that God is asking you to surrender to him?