What Jesus Did! 'How Not to Lead' — Matthew 23:4-10

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

[Jesus continued talking to the crowds and his disciples about the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees:] "They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

"Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called 'Rabbi.'

"Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father,' for only God in heaven is your Father. And don't let anyone call you 'Teacher,' for you have only one teacher, the Messiah."

— Matthew 23:4-10 NLT

Key Thought

I've heard a whole bunch of lessons on how to be a good leader, but I've never heard a more powerful lesson on how NOT to be a good leader than Matthew 23. Later in this chapter Jesus pronounces seven woes — seven "What sorrow awaits!" statements. In these statements, he denounces the religious leaders of his day for their selfish, misguided, abusive, arrogant, contemptible, and condescending leadership.

Unfortunately, many of the abuses by religious leaders that Jesus denounces in this chapter are actively and widely practiced today by some religious leaders. Anyone longing to be a spiritual leader of any kind must routinely revisit this chapter to be warned about the dangers of distorted leadership. Jesus takes very seriously the way his followers lead in his Kingdom. Of course, when the hero of a movement is willing to die a sacrificial death for his followers, it tends to stand leadership styles upside down. Maybe that's what Jesus had in mind when he said that in his Kingdom, "The last will be first, and the first will be last!" (Matthew 20:16 NIV)

Bottom line for today's verses: Leaders must be helpful to those they lead, not so they will be seen and honored, but so those they serve will be blessed and God himself will be pleased!

Today's Prayer

O God, forgive me when I grandstand my Christian service. Please open my heart so that I will serve you more genuinely and honestly whether anyone notices or not. Give me eyes to see those who have burdens that need to be lifted and give me willing hands to serve them as Jesus did. In my Savior's precious name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Galatians 6:1-5
  • James 1:26-27
  • Romans 12:3-8


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Illustration of Matthew 23:4-10 NLT — "They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.


About This Devotional

What Jesus Did! is a series of one-year devotional guides through each gospel, using one short scripture passage each day and following the Gospel in sequential order. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage and a reflection and a prayer which open up the day's scripture and show how it challenges you to live for Jesus.

What Jesus Did! is written by Phil Ware and is available in book form.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.