Every fall Forbes magazine produces the results of a survey that evaluates what professions seem to garner the most respect. The result do vary from time to time but there is a consistency about several positions typically remaining at or near the top. These are the jobs that Americans seem to agree upon that deserve the most respect. Last years report showed an increase in Military Officer but also showed a decrease in Clergy. The Pastor role is now down to the 8th position, still higher than in some years however.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, the “Priest” role was divided between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. At the time nearing the end of His ministry, the Pharisees had the stronger presence and were part of the ruling priesthood. The New Testament will often refer to the Pharisees and scribes together, both representing the current priest role. By this time, they were more feared than respected. Many Jews felt they were partnering too much with the Romans, which they were in an effort to keep some level of authority they had come to appreciate.
Jesus spoke words of truth about these priests. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you,” (Matt 23:1-3a). Jesus is telling the people to respect the POSITION that these priests hold. Respect their WORDS because they have the authority of Moses. However He finishes verse 3 with “but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.”
Jesus was calling them out for the fact that they said the right things but did not practice what they taught. It is dangerous but common for people of power to become so self absorbed with their position that they cease to live out what their position calls them to do. Jesus spends the next 30 or so verses blasting the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites.
Jesus demonstrated a different kind of priest. He demonstrated a servant leader, one who practiced what He preached. His is the model that pastors are to follow. There are some still today that follow the Pharisees, being proud and pious about their Holiness but not practicing what the preach. But they are the exception to the rule. Most Christian pastors today follow the model of Jesus, the model of a servant leader.
Though I’m not yet a pastor, for this call I will lump myself in with them. As pastors, we have a call to follow Jesus. To live as a servant leader. If more of us truly demonstrate the kind of servant leadership that Jesus calls us towards, then there will be two benefits.
The smaller benefit will be that we climb the list of respected professions. But much greater than that is that as a result of being more respected, more will come to listen to not just our words, but to duplicate our actions and become servant leaders themselves. Only by being a true disciple, can we actually make disciples. And that is the charge Jesus left us with.