Lectionary Reflection for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

From Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 23: 1-12

Jesus’s commendations to his disciples as well as his condemnations of the scribes and Pharisees presume, as he has just acknowledged, that he is the Messiah. Jesus’s criticism of the scribes and Pharisees is drawn from God’s gift to Israel through the law and the prophets. He is not condemning the Pharisees and the scribes because they do not acknowledge that he is the Messiah. Rather, he is making clear that they cannot acknowledge that he is the Messiah because they do not live by the very law they advocate. He does not, for example, condemn the wearing of phylacteries and fringes. The externals are not the problem, but they become a problem when they no longer serve to shape the life of prayer. . . This is a sobering list of failure and judgment, with descriptions of hypocrisy and failure in which we cannot help but see ourselves. It is surely the case, for example, that many of us are kept from entering the kingdom by the lives we lead as Christians. Our problem is very simple—we simply do not know how to live as a people who believe that Jesus is the resurrected Lord. The joy and freedom that should name the lives of those freed from the demons become lost amid attempts to make our difference depend on matters that do not matter. We become adept at praising the prophets of the past, having lost the ability to discern the prophets among us.

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


  1. It’s great to see your new blog! One request I would make is to add an email option for receiving new posts (I saw your email sign up for the newsletters, which I already receive). I rarely use an RSS reader, but I check my email everyday, so an email subscription would help me follow your posts. Thanks for the many good books you guys are putting out!