In the Gospels, Jesus is tender towards sinners, but he is brutally tough and direct in his relationships with the Pharisees, scribes, elders, and priests. Why? It is because these men were exceptional in their knowledge, impressive in their skills, but bankrupt in their personal character. They were excellent in thinking, excellent in walking, but pitiful in being.
In the eyes of their neighbors, these men were the most respected of men. Their theological knowledge was off the charts. Years were spent learning the Word of God and searching how to best apply it to their daily life. These individuals were the most notable of teachers, preachers, and counselors. Intellectually and theologically, these men were something to behold.
In addition, these men were incredibly skilled in living life. They knew how to worship well in the Temple. Their life-skills were also recognized in the house, marketplace, and governmental square. Pharisees, scribes, elders, and priests were models of self-control and moderation. When it came to speaking and making presentations, they were incredibly articulate in conversation. Dress was fine in their financial dealings were prosperous. These men could lead their children, their congregations, and their cities. For them, excellence was the norm, and mediocrity was simply unacceptable. Therefore, as a result, these men were often granted the chief seats in houses, temples, boardrooms, ballrooms, and city chambers. These fellows, they did not merely read and learn well; they lived well. To most, their skill in living life was something to behold.
However, while people were impressed, Jesus was not. Why? To him they were pretty people, with pretty families, with pretty successful external lives, entertaining pretty thought in their pretty clothes, but with sordid and foul souls. The outside of their cup was pristine, but the inside was putrid. They were hears, and doers, but not be-ers. Therefore, they were impressive to everyone except the One whose opinion mattered most.
So where do we go with this line of thinking?
Friends, as a person who is consistently surrounded by teenagers (Parent, pastor, teacher, counselor, coach), I see this as a sad reality in our contemporary culture. In our churches, schools, and households, we are largely producing disciples who are abounding in knowledge, increasing in skill, but devoid of Christ-like character. They know their science, math, grammar, history, finance, and catechism, and they are making great progress in academics, arts, and athletics, but they are thoroughly materialistic, dishonest, lusty, arrogant, spiteful, self-serving, and lacking in self control. And while they might be impressed with themselves, and while they be impressive to the watching world, and while we might be impressed with our own products, Jesus is not. In our discipleship, let us be well-rounded and our focus. Let us raise a next-generation pleasing to be Heavenly Father and knowledge, skill, and character.
However, perhaps they are devoid of character because of their parents. Perhaps they have seen too many professional athletes willing to do anything to win a game. Perhaps they have seen too many adults lying on resumes to get a coaching job. Perhaps their parents have been people growing in knowledge, skill, assets, power, leisure, and autonomy, but not growing sufficiently in the area of Christ-like character. It is my contention that we are a generation very interested in external growth somewhat disinterested in internal purity.
Therefore friends, let us seek to be like Jesus. Let us make progress in our accumulation of knowledge; use the day well and become wiser in some regard. And let us continue to be increasingly skillful in our manner of living life. May the watching world be impressed by our self-control, our religious worship, our way of leading our families, our mastery of the arts, our skill at the office, our play on the ball field, our financial savvy, and our leadership in the community. Let us focus on skill and excellence, and let us strive to be a cut above our neighbors. However, what good is success in thinking and living if we are not equally successful in being. Let us analyze our hearts, confess our sins, and find comfort in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus Christ be praised in our advancement in knowledge, skill, and character. And may we find great joy in our children following our examples as we follow that of Christ Jesus.