12/9 Matthew 16:6

6 Jesus said to them, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two main groups of religious leaders of Judaism in Jesus' day. While they differed quite a bit on doctrine, they did have one thing in common. They thought they were above the common people. They referred to most of the common people as "sinners." That would imply that these leaders thought they were not sinners. They even dressed in a way that would set them apart and did not want others to touch them. Instead of being humbled by the Scriptures they knew, they were proud that they knew so much.

The passage goes on to say that Jesus was referring to their teaching, but we can see in other passages that Jesus also warned them regarding their behavior. They loved honorary titles and the respect of man. They made a show of their prayers and other religious obligations, but did not deal with their own hearts. They applied the Scriptures to others, but not to their own lives. Perhaps worst of all, they manipulated the Scriptures to their advantage.

Jesus was warning of their teaching but also of religious pride and self-exaltation. The more we know, the more humble we should be. The closer we are to God, the more compassionate we should be toward others. True holiness lies in applying the Scriptures to one's own heart first and foremost. Detail to religious duty can only be considered a good thing when one is walking humbly with God (Matthew 23:23; Micah 6:8).

Consider: As you read these devotionals, resist the tendency to apply them to others. Listen to what God's Spirit would apply to your heart. Beware of the tendency to do things to flaunt your religion for others to see.