THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
CALLED TO HOLINESS
Today’s gospel: Matthew 5:20-26
We are called to holiness and are to be saints. “He
saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tm 1:9a).
What is “holiness”? We look to those who have
been declared saints and say that is holiness. Today Jesus
points us to certain persons and helps put parameters on holiness.
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the
kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20).
let us see how the Pharisees were. They were very scrupulous
about living the law of Moses. “I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.” (Lk 18:12). This
Pharisee was “not like the rest of humanitygreedy,
dishonest, adulterous” (Lk 18:11c). Thus they were exemplary
in outward compliance with the law. Thus Jesus told the crowds,
“do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you”
Jesus also said, “but do not follow their example. For
they preach but they do not practice.” (Mt 23:3b). They
were hypocrites. They look good outside but are rotten inside.
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful
on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones
and every kind of filth.” (Mt 23:27b).
our righteousness is to surpass that of the Pharisees, let
us examine ourselves in relation to them. This is also especially
appropriate with servant leadership. Indeed, between his denunciations
of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus says, “The greatest
among you shall be your servant.” (Mt 23:11). What are
wrong actions or postures of the Pharisees?
“All their works are performed to be seen.”
(Mt 23:5a). This is when we look to being acclaimed and
admired for our works. It is when we do only what is popular
and not controversial. It is when we seek to cater to the
love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues.”
(Mt 23:6). This is when we look to position, power, privilege
love “the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” (Mt
23:7b). This is when we become proud about out positions
of leadership and even the titles that go with them. This
is one reason, even a small one, why we changed the leaders’
titles from “heads” to “servants.”
The title “servant” is not very complimentary
to the outside world.
devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy
prayers.” (Mk 12:40a). This is when we are outwardly
pious and prayerful, but commit great acts of injustice,
such as in economic or political affairs.
pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected
the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and
fidelity.” (Mt 23:23b). This is when we are strict
and legalistic on observance of the covenant and our duties,
but fail in love and compassion.
cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are
full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Mt 23:25b).
This is when we portray ourselves outwardly as pious, but
have serious unseen sins, such as lust, envy, pride.
The Pharisees were considered holy in their day. They were
zealous in observance of the law. However, they were not to
enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yes we are to observe the
law, but it is not just an outward observance, but should
reflect the condition of our hearts.
is why Jesus raised the bar on the law. “You shall not
kill; .... But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21b,22a). If in our
heart we wanted to kill, then we have already sinned grievously.
Holiness and servant leadership are not about going through
the motions or even looking good. They are not just about
doing no outside wrong regarding the law, but about being
inwardly right regarding God.
see what is outside, but God sees what is inside. Thus our
righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees.