Why Authenticity Matters More Than Authority in God’s Kingdom

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A sermon idea based on Matthew 23:1-12.

People don’t become their best because someone claiming authority over them tells them what to do. People become their best when they are loved and led with authenticity.

Matthew 23:1-12 NRSV

[1] Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, [2] “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; [3] therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. [4] They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. [5] They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. [6] They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, [7] and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. [8] But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. [9] And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-the one in heaven. [10] Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. [11] The greatest among you will be your servant. [12] All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Does God have authority over our lives? Yes, of course. God is God. I am not.

Below the level of God, people have always clamored for power and authority. National leaders. Religious leaders. Church leaders. Even the disciples of Jesus got into this.

But among men, authority isn’t the big issue. Authenticity is.

The scribes and Pharisees taught with a kind of authority derived from the perception that they were important. They held high positions, wore official Temple clothing, and impressed people by outwardly keeping a rigid set of rules for their lives. But they failed to do their real job – leading people into the relational presence of God.

There is a kind of authority derived from others’ perception that we are powerful because of our position or accomplishments. But this falls far short of the kind of authority with which Jesus led.

True, kingdom authority results from several other factors, which Jesus pointed out.

1. Christian leaders should be rooted in authentic fellowship with God.

There is a big difference between having knowledge about God and having a personal relationship with God. There are plenty of religious leaders, founders, and teachers who claim to be experts on who God is and how he works.

The scribes and Pharisees knew their scriptures extremely well. They had tons of information about God, but had not experienced or demonstrated a genuine transformation in their own lives.

2. Christian leaders should consistently live out Jesus’ kingdom values.

As for Christians, we are all students. We are all disciples – even those who have multiple degrees from seminaries and religious training institutions. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

As disciples, we are called to study the life and teachings of Jesus and then to model his values and way of living before other people.

3. Christian leaders should lovingly serve the needs of others before serving themselves.

This is the kind of authority Jesus demonstrated. He laid down his life for his friends. He sacrificed himself for the benefit of everyone else. And he modeled a life of service, culminating in the washing of the feet of his disciples.

The world is asking hard questions about our theology. And the world is only willing to trust answers that come from those who embody the love, life, and value system Jesus taught.

Authenticity will always matter more than authority.


Photo by Olivier Miche on Unsplash.

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