Daily Reading & Meditation
1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Meditation: What does leaven have to do with hypocrisy? To the Jews leaven was a sign of evil. It was a piece of dough from left-over bread which fermented. Fermentation was associated with decay and rotting – the state of foul-smelling decomposition. Why did Jesus warn his disciples to avoid the ways of the Pharisees? The Pharisees wanted everyone to recognize that they were pious and good Jews because they meticulously and scrupulously performed their religious duties. Jesus turned the table on them by declaring that outward appearance doesn’t always match the inward intentions of the heart. Anyone can display outward signs of goodness while inwardly harboring evil thoughts and intentions.
God’s light exposes darkness and transforms our minds and hearts
The word hypocrite means actor – someone who pretends to be what he or she is not. But who can truly be good, but God alone? Hypocrisy thrives on making a good appearance and masking what they don’t want others to see. The good news is that God’s light exposes the darkness of evil and sin in our hearts, even the sin which is unknown to us. And God’s light transforms our hearts and minds and enables us to overcome hatred with love, pride with humility, and pretense with integrity and truthfulness. God gives grace to the humble and contrite of heart to enable us to overcome the leaven of insincerity and hypocrisy in our lives.
Godly fear draws us to God’s love and truth
What does fear have to do with the kingdom of God? Fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to panic and flight or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears… O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want! ..Come, O sons (and daughters), listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:4,9,11)
What is godly fear? It is reverence – respect for God’s authority, right judgment, and power to save us from the destructive forces of sin and evil in our lives. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual – the loss of one’s heart, mind, and soul to the power of hell – the kingdom of darkness, corruption, and eternal death. A healthy fear of God leads to spiritual maturity, good wisdom, and right judgment – and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, deceit, and cowardice – especially in the face of falsehood, deception, and evil. Do you trust in God’s merciful love, forgiveness, and power to change and transform your life? And do you submit to his life-giving word of truth and righteousness (moral goodness)?
“Lord Jesus, may the light of your word free my heart from the deception of sin, and consume me with a burning love for your truth and righteousness.”
Psalm 33:1-5, 12-13
1 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
2 Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song, play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the LORD is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven, he sees all the sons of men
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Comfort for those who doubt God’s providence in Christ, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“To bestow yet another means of comfort on our minds, he forcibly added that five sparrows are scarcely perhaps worth a penny, and yet God does not forget even one of them. He also said that the separate hairs of your head are all numbered. Consider how great care he takes of those that love him. The Preserver of the universe extends his aid to things so worthless and descends to the smallest animals. How can he forget those who love him, especially when he takes so great care of them? He condescends to visit them, to know exactly each particular of their state, and even how many are the hairs of their heads… Let us not doubt that with a rich hand he will give his grace to those who love him. He will not permit us to fall into temptation. If, by his wise purpose he permits us to be taken in the snare in order that we may gain glory by suffering, he will most assuredly grant us the power to bear it.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 87)