Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (ESV)
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (NIV)
But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (NLT)
What do you do and who do you do it for?
This question seems to be what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 23:12. Jesus, speaking to the crowds begins sharing about the teachers of the law, how they teach in places of authority, but don’t live the way God intended. Instead, they love to be seen doing great godly things wherever they go. Being seen and showered with praises seemed to always be the greatest downfall of these religious leaders. They drew attention to themselves in hopes they would be exalted in the community. The interesting thing is Jesus speaks to this earlier in the book of Matthew when he says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full,” (Matthew 6:16). When Jesus says they receive their reward in full He is stating, the empty praise of man is what you receive when you choose to bring attention upon yourself, but He has something so much greater for you in the end if you humble yourself now.
Memorizing Scripture in Bible Times
Now zooming in on Matthew 23, the Pharisees get called out for “making their phylacteries wide,” (Matthew 23:5). Confused? I get it. Phylacteries aren’t in our vocabulary, but when you understand what the word means, and the significance to Bible Memory Project, it is fascinating. Phylacteries are small square leather boxes containing portions of Scripture worn by Jews. This physical tradition was inspired by Deut. 6:8 and Deut. 11:18 where God commands the Jews to fix his words to their hearts and minds and tie them as symbols on their hands. In the 4th century BC, rabbis took this to mean something very literal and created the phylacteries. So why does this matter to us?
Well, I’m confident there is a strong and necessary application for all who are reading this that are wearing a silicone bracelet on their wrist. Myself included. Jesus rebuked these teachers of the law because they intentionally made their phylacteries wide so that they would be seen by others. They were trying to show off by adorning themselves with Scripture verses on their bodies. Dang! See the application to us? Now I am not saying it is wrong to put these bracelets on our wrists to memorize God’s Word. That's the furthest from my intention with this Devo, but I believe this section of Scripture can be a check to our hearts. Why do I wear these bracelets? Do I do it to exalt myself? Do I do it so others would see how wise I am? We do it in order to store His Word in the secret place of our hearts, ultimately to share it with the world. As you go about your week, wear your wristband, in humility, for the sake of others and to align your heart with God’s heart.
The Call Forward
The verse this week is an opportunity to realign our hearts to know God through Scripture memorization and to do it with humility. Maybe you notice ways you exalt yourself amongst others. The call is to lay that down and rest in the humility of Christ. In Him, we can find joy, not seeking to defend ourselves, prove ourselves, or be something great in the eyes of the world. We can rest in our true identity as sons and daughters and out of that place we can love others not looking to climb a social ladder, but live at peace knowing whose we truly are. In the end, we get what we want. If we desire approval, praise, and honor in this life we will get it now, but we will forgo the greatest glory that we can have: being with God for eternity. If we desire God more than everything else it will draw us into the Gospel lifestyle of humility.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” - Pastor John Piper
God humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.