Blocking Access to Heaven
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13 (NIV)
Here’s a quirky snapshot to help you remember why Jesus felt such grief over the Pharisees.
Imagine you’re heading into a hotel on the invitation of the owner, who wants to get to know you. But when you get to the entrance, you find an official-looking group of men sifting through piles of files. In fact, there are so many files, they’ve had file cabinets delivered which now block the entrance to the hotel.
You tell the men you want to enter the hotel and they begin to list off a dozen or so requirements in order for you to do that. Their list is highly specific and painstakingly technical and you quickly see how difficult it will be to meet these requirements.
But the men appear to have official status so you start doing what they say. Your focus is no longer to meet with the owner, or even to gain entrance to the hotel; you’re just trying to meet all the regulations and requirements.
Suddenly, the owner appears, genuinely concerned about you, thinking something bad must have happened to make you so late. He looks at the file cabinets, the men with piles of files, and you struggling to hold the pile of files they’ve given you.
Then, he turns to the “file-pilers,” and says:
“You hypocrites! You’ve blocked the door to my hotel! You’ve made it so you can’t get in and neither can anyone else.
“If you’re concerned about requirements, let me sum them up for you: Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself, and admit that you gain entrance to the hotel through my loving generosity and not your miserly methods.”
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2 NIV).