Monday, November 23, 2020

The Value of a Coat

Yesterday, we talked about the irony of the men with the greatest position in Jewish society needing someone to guard their coats while they exercised their authority. One potential explanation for this is that they didn't have the love that they thought they did (or pretended they did, since they knew they needed to guard their coats), since the people could not be trusted to respect their property even while they were exercising their authority. 

Another possible explanation is that perhaps the Pharisees were simply too attached to their coats. And that's a problem, too. 

There are a few possible reasons why the Pharisees would be attached to their coats, and all of them are a challenge to the heart of the men we're talking about. 

First, maybe they simply were attached to their coats because they were their coats. They had invested in these coats, perhaps received them from others who meant a lot to them. Every man needs a coat, and a man who already has a coat doesn't want to need one again. It could be as simple as the Pharisees not wanting to give up something that was meeting a need in their life. In this case, they were holding too tightly to things that moths could destroy, being selfish about what they had. 

Maybe they didn't want someone else to have their coats without paying some price for them. Maybe they were just against the notion of charity. If someone else wanted a coat, then he should work hard, earn the money, and buy himself a coat, rather than taking one that doesn't belong to him. The Pharisees could not be expected to provide for everyone, could they? Or if they could, perhaps they were being stingy because they wanted to keep a record of who was being helped, of who received what and from whom. Maybe they were willing to give their coats to someone in need, as long as they got credit for it. In this case, they were unwilling to give freely, keeping too many tabs on the life that had been given as a gift to them.

Maybe, as we briefly suggested yesterday, we're not talking about regular coats, but the special coats of the Pharisees, the ones with the long tassels that were meant to indicate their status in society. That raises a couple of potential problems, too. 

Like perhaps the Pharisees were too attached to the outward symbols of their own authority. They didn't want to lose their coats because they didn't want to lose their status. They wanted everyone to know by looking at them who they were and how important they were, and the only way they could guarantee that was with their coats. If that's the case, they're too in love with their appearances. 

Or maybe they didn't want anyone to be able to pretend they were among the elite just by wearing, but not 'earning,' the coat. They didn't want other men to be able to spout off whatever ideas they had with any measure of authority just because they had a coat with long tassels (even though that's, uhm, exactly what the Pharisees expected to be able to do because of their coats with long tassels), so they had to protect their authority by making sure no one else could get into it. If that's the case, they're too in love with their own authority. 

There are all kinds of reasons why the Pharisees might have felt the need to guard their coats, but none of them are good. They probably seemed good and necessary to the men who deemed it good and necessary, but every single one of these possibilities (including the one we looked at yesterday, which was that they weren't as beloved by the people as they pretended to be) reveals a deeper heart problem, one that should not be ignored. 

So if you need someone to guard your coat, it's worth asking why. And then, it's worth asking what that reveals about your heart. 

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