“Everything they do is done for men to see ...’” (Matthew 23:5-7)

"Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others." (Matthew 23:5-7)

What is wrong with doing everything 'for people to see'?

Jesus is speaking of temple teachers who are deceiving people. Instead of being truly devoted to God, they are making a show of false devotion according to Jesus.

Jesus is also giving us a clear method to distinguish those who might appear to be teachers of Truth, but who are, in fact, fakes.

Jesus’ statement here is a strong one. One that is applicable today. A preacher, priest, bishop, pope, minister, reverend, guru, rabbi, imam, or any other type of ecclesiastical teacher whose focus is upon gaining the authority, prestige, admiration, followers, and the acceptance of others is not to be accepted as a messenger of God or a messenger of Jesus - regardless of their uniforms or titles.

Should their intention be upon their own success along with many followers - they seek their own glory, not God's.

Jesus clarifies that these fake teachers will go to great lengths to make themselves look official. A phylactery was a box containing scripture verses. It was worn on the forehead or arm. A wide box was one containing many scrolls. The rabbis were keen on impressing others with their scholarly authority. The rest of their clothing was also focused on impressing upon others their advanced positions.

Like so many of today's ecclesiastical teachers, they made sure that where ever they were, people would recognize their position of authority.

Then, like many ecclesiastical teachers of today, they also demanded special seats and enjoyed being given attention in public. They enjoyed the power of having people address them with humility and awe.

Why are fame and authority so important?

This is the epitome of our disease in the physical world. We want others to honor us. Whether it is being recognized as an Olympic gold medal winner, a CEO, a doctor, a movie star, a bestselling author, or a political leader, it is the same desire. We want the respect and admiration of others.

Just look around, or turn on the TV. So many of us work hard to carve out a position of respect. If we don't get to be president, a doctor, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, we begin to look for more practical positions of authority and respect. This might include being a supervisor at work or a mother or father - positions to command respect and authority over some group of people.

But then for some, gaining the position of pastor, priest, bishop, pope, minister, guru, imam, and so on offers that position of authority. In these positions, at least one day a week, they can exercise authority over those who follow them. In these positions, they are offered respect, admiration, and prestige.

Even so, these positions are never satisfying. Regardless of how high we go on the ladder of authority, power and prestige, it is never enough. Senators want to be presidents. Managers want to be CEOs. Movie stars want to win an Oscar. Priests want to be a bishop or cardinal - or even pope. 

And for those who are mothers and fathers, children are not enough. They want to be grandmothers and grandfathers.

In these ways, we seek to extend our authority, because the authority we currently have is never enough: Because authority does not satisfy us.

Why doesn't authority satisfy us?

This means two things: Number one, having a position of authority is not our natural position. If it was, then we would be satisfied with whatever authority we have.

Number two, it means that we never actually have real authority. The authority is an illusion. There is always someone greater. We never reach the ultimate position of authority, no matter how hard we try.

Why? Why do we seek admiration, power, and authority - and never really achieve it? Because we each desire ultimately to be God.

We have become jealous of God. Rather than worship and serve God, we want to be the center of attention. We want to be served. We want power and prestige because we want to be God.

God knows this. This is why He put us in this physical world, and into these temporary physical bodies. This is like our little sandbox: to play out our desire to be Him.

Is this God's way of teaching us?

God has arranged all the trappings for us to play out our desires, and each of us chooses our own method: Some of us go for making money and becoming wealthy. We figure if we have the wealth, we’ll get power and prestige. 

For others, it is a particular role or position of authority, including positions within communities, industries, religious groups, social groups and/or families. All of these provide positions arranged within the physical world for us to exercise our quest for power and authority.

God is allowing us to play these roles for a period of time in order to allow us to see that power and authority are not satisfying. He wants us to realize that we will never be happy unless we change and resume our natural positions as His loving caregivers and friends.

This progression is seen quite easily among some of the world's most wealthy people. After struggling for many years to become rich and powerful, even billionaires are still not satisfied. Many then turn to philanthropic activities because they begin to feel more satisfaction in giving and helping others.

This is because they are gradually realizing that our natural function is not to have authority, be respected, and be served: Our natural position is to love and serve. What they may or may not realize is that ultimately, our natural position is to love and serve the Supreme Being.

And this is what Jesus was teaching:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)