In recent years we have seen some corporate executives go to jail. Why? Because it was revealed that they were defrauding the public. Say one thing and do another–became a common form of behavior.
In today’s Gospel (Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 23:1-12), Jesus was telling the crowds that the scribes and Pharisees were doing pretty much the same thing–Saying one thing and doing another.
What was curious about Jesus’ later reflection on this situation, was that, in effect, he said “Do what the scribes and Pharisees tell you to do legally, but do not follow their example because they tend to be hypocrites.” The reason was that for Jesus many of the scribes and Pharisees tended to be more concerned about outward perception rather than inner motivation.
This meant that the scribes and Pharisees took more care about how they were perceived in public, particularly with regard to titles. They burdened the people with demands without attempting to help them. In order to avoid this hypocrisy, Jesus proposed the ideal relationship between “boss” and “worker.” He stated unequivocally to the people, “The greatest among you must be your servant.” The Greek word is diakonos, “one who serves.”
What does this mean for us? The truth is, we often find ourselves in leadership positions, even if it is because of our positive behavior patterns. This indicates that we are examples whether we wish to be or not. People see and judge us no matter what we do or say. The best way to avoid hypocrisy is to follow Jesus’ advice, namely, to be of service to others–always.
I am reminded of the advice also given by St. Francis of Assissi. “Preac
h the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”