I’ve never been a particular fan of snakes, much less a brood of them (that just sounds disgusting), so if someone called me that, I’d be pretty offended. And that’s just the thing- Jesus is talking to me too.
“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
-Matthew 12:34 NASB
We often see the kind, compassionate Jesus, but many are uncomfortable with the angry one. We need to keep in mind that He is God. He has the authority to punish us. This reminds me of a mother or father who hates to watch their child screw up, so they eventually resort to name-calling and anger- anything that will get through to the stubborn kid.
So who is the brood of vipers? The Pharisees. The hypocrites.
It’s not the prostitutes or thieves that Jesus yells at, but the religious people of his time. The goodie goodies. Why do we think that is?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”
The other day, I looked in the mirror, and I did not like what I saw. This literally happened, by the way, not just a soul-searching thing. The face that stared back wasn’t the happy face on my student ID or in my old pictures. It looked tired and anxious at the same time. Robbed of joy and the glow of youth. It looked like the face of someone who was very unwell.
What happened to me? Shouldn’t I be holy by now? I’ve been abstaining from stuff, working more, trying harder, eating better…
But in the process, I missed out on something very important. I lost joy, hope, peace, love, sense of humor, energy, and quirkiness. I’d cleaned the outside, but the inside was still very bad and empty, in some ways worse, because I was allowing pride, jealousy, fear, and wrath to remain.
I am beginning to understand all kinds of hypocrisy. I am beginning to understand the Inquisitions, Holy Wars, oppressions, divisions, and squabbles. I am beginning to understand why gossipy church wives have remained gossipy and why many would rather be burned at stake than call themselves a Christian.
But I still don’t blame God. I don’t blame the Gospel for turning people into jerks. I also understand why people don’t want to be Christian. Because I know that I myself have fed into these negative images. I know because someone told me so in a very un-subtle way.
So I’m not going to point out that it’s some kind of logical fallacy to claim that because Christians are bad, Christianity is bad. But I will defend the message and believe in it. I will say that it is not the balmy love and mercy of Jesus Christ that causes us to act like jerks, but it is the cold, self-righteous religion that we impose upon ourselves without even realizing it. It is going through the motions and dressing up the ugliness with a facade of meekness and piety. Cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is all moldy and gross.
It’s amazing that it’s so easy to get on the wrong track. You get on the wrong track, you realize it, you want to go back because it’s getting dark, but you keep going because something tells you it’ll pay off.
It’s so easy to get caught up in little rules and miss the boat on the big stuff.
“…Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
Luke 10:41 NRSV
But what, what exactly is that one thing? Don’t we already acknowledge that thing, every time we pray and say things like “With the Lord’s help, with Christ who lives in me, etc?”
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 NKJV)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:19-20, 23-25 NKJV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV)
So if I love God, I must prove it. It’s as simple and impossible as that.