December 8

Matthew 3:7-12

“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’”

If John was an Essene, as many scholars presume, and the son of a priest, as Luke attests, he knew the Pharisees and the Sadduccees well. They likely represented for him the ruling parties in Jerusalem, the ones who regularly fought for control of the temple and who were responsible for the corruption of the Jewish faith. The Essenes at Qumran had left the city and established their community in the wilderness in order to escape their influence. When he saw them coming for baptism he couldn’t contain himself and called them the brood of vipers. That pattern of corrupt leadership has been a part of the church’s history too. Religious leaders have regularly engaged in power struggles and used their positions for personal gain. Sometimes they’ve joined with political rulers to control and manipulate those they’ve been called to serve. Again and again prophets like John have been raised up to speak the truth to those in power and call them to repentance. Seldom have they listened! Often their actions have resulted in division and schism. What a blessing it is when they heed the call to repentance and humble themselves before God! The church is the living body of Christ in this world and it deserves leaders who walk faithfully in the way of Jesus.

Thought for the Day: What causes corruption in the church?

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