While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’”
David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
The Scribes were legal experts; precise, pedantic and pompous. One of the striking things about the carpenter from Nazareth was that he was able to tie them up in knots with logical riddles of the sort they normally enjoyed. The crowds loved it.
But actually I like precise people and will forgive them the occasional lapse into pedantry. A Treasurer knows that without a few precise people around, finances can soon slip into embarrassing chaos; and when nobody insists on pressing that slightly pedantic question, sharp practice and fraud goes undetected until catastrophe strikes.
We need some experts around to help us use God’s gifts wisely and some of them will be lawyers. We should be grateful for all sorts of experts who give of their expertise to enrich the life of the Church.
The problems arise when we think our expertise makes us superior to those who lack it. Be it canon law or flower arranging, when offered as part of our grateful response to the infinity of God’s gifts to us, our area of expertise can be a beautiful gift. When it becomes our reason for demanding the places of honour, Jesus says sternly “Beware!”
Lord Jesus, who honoured God’s law and surmounted it, I can never outwit you and you can never be in debt to me. Thank you for the skills I have developed with the gifts you have given me. Give me grace to offer them in your service with humility; make me as grateful for the skills of others as I would secretly like them to be of mine; show me fresh ways to use my expertise in building your Kingdom. And when my work is done, welcome me where the only skill required is worship. Amen.
John Ellis is a member of Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP, URC Treasurer and Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly. .