The blind leading the blind

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Matthew 23:13-26

Three times Jesus uses this image in the Gospels:

“Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?”  (Luke 6:39)

“They be blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”  (Matthew 15:14)

“Woe unto you, ye blind guides.”  (Matthew 23:16)

When we use the saying we usually lament the ignorance of the leader, or perhaps their naivety.  Essentially the leader doesn’t know enough.  That’s what puts them in the dark and makes them an incompetent leader.

But the way Jesus uses the phrase is different.  He consistently applies the phrase to the Pharisees.  And it’s not their lack of knowledge that is the problem.  Their problem is their hypocrisy.  It’s the fact that they don’t practise what they preach that blinds them.

We have already seen how hypocrisy is like a beam in our eye while we berate our brother for the speck in his.  While-ever we are pointing the finger at others and ignoring the sinfulness of our own hearts we remain blind.

This is a frightening truth.  We tend to think that we have a pretty good grip on reality.  We imagine that, whatever other problems we might have, we can at least see the world for what it is.  But Jesus says that clear vision is not at all common.  Our eyes are not wide open, not naturally.

Why not?  We are inveterate self-justifiers.  We are committed to a view of ourselves that then shapes our view of everything else.  If we invest in a pious identity then something will have to give.  Because we are not pious. We are sinners.  Yet, in order to square the circle of our sin on the one hand and our need to project a “righteous” image on the other, we will have to deal in unrealities.  We will have to lie.  We will have to recalibrate and justify and mask and ignore and exaggerate and over-compensate. And such a re-adjustment of the truth comes at a heavy cost.  We lose our ability to see!  We lose touch with reality.  And if the leaders are out of touch with reality, God help those who are being led.

The Office is a study in how not to lead.  David Brent (or, in America, Michael Scott) proves to be the worst boss imaginable largely because of his own need to be vindicated.  The office must revolve around his ego and everyone suffers.

If you are in leadership of some kind you will want to lead well.  You won’t want to be a blind guide.  Yet the clear vision which Jesus urges upon us is not, first and foremost, about increasing our skills and knowledge base.  Ultimately it’s about losing our hypocrisy.  Drop the mask, and the blinders come off.

We need to see ourselves clearly as those who naturally belong in the pit.  And yet Christ has entered in and lifted us to the throne.  We are helpless, filthy, unworthy but blessed beyond measure.

Now, as we confess our sin and receive Christ’s alien righteousness we give up on the wearisome burdens of our own self-justification.  Now we realise that life is not about us and our own little holiness project.  Now we are freed to lead, which, in Christ’s book, means to serve.  And perhaps then we will lead others away from the pit.

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