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When the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.
‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.’
We live in a world that seems to change on a daily basis, a world that leaves us confused and ever-seeking something different, exciting and new. The still comparatively new phenomenon of social media drives us on in our quest to be up-to-date in all that we say and think and do. That same social media has a more sinister side, though. It is not just informative, it also seeks to be influential. By that I mean that social media seeks to influence our thoughts and actions in a way that separates us from the reality in which we live out our daily lives. It gives us expectations that are not only unrealistic, but can also be self-destructive. And, very often, those expectations, which are rooted in self-obsession, are also destructive of our relationship with God.
Jesus warned the clamouring crowds of the yeast of the Pharisees, which he described as hypocrisy. ‘Hypocrisy’ is an interesting word because the Greek word ‘hypocrite’ is the word for ‘actor’. Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are actors, playing out the role of religious leaders whilst having no real faith of their own. These are powerful words, but they do resonate with the world we know, the world dominated by the power and influence of social media.
The teachings and strictures of the Pharisees were just as compelling and controlling as the effects of social media. Both centres of authority and power tell us how we should be living our lives; both centres of authority and power undermine our true worth. Jesus reminds us of that worth when he speaks of the lowliest and most plentiful of creatures being known to God and being valued by God. Jesus urges us to be strong in our faith, resisting the malicious influence of those who would weaken and, ultimately, take away our ability to decide for ourselves.
Let us pray that we might resist the power and influence of those who are rooted in this world. Let us pray that we might never forget our worth in the eyes of God. Let us pray that we might remain strong as we follow God’s way through this life, turning our backs on all that distracts and threatens the life of faith which is God’s gift to us all.