Tugging on our Phylacteries


Tugging at Our Phylacteries

Matthew 23:5-12; Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18


Thesis: Showmanship religion is wrong and God has always condemned this type of religion. Wearing our religion as an external sign of our righteousness is wrong.




  1. Judging others’ motives has always been wrong.  Judging usually ignores those sins that live in the heart of the judge.
  2. A quick Google search on the phrase, “Judging in the Bible” returned over 10 million results.   Most of those results have to do with people judging others.
    1. Matthew 7:1-5; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
    2. Luke 6:37; “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
    3. John 8; the woman caught in adultery
    4. James 4:11-12; Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
    5. The point of these passages is that it is wrong to sit in judgment of other people when we too are guilty of the same or even worse sins.
  3. Why type of Christian would go around thinking he is better than other people?  The pharisaical Christian.
  4. Read Matthew 23:1-12.


  1. Explanation of the phylacteries and tassels
    1. Several religions use external emblems to show their religion.
      1. Christians: crucifix, fish symbols, license plate covers, etc.
      2. Jews: mezuzah (Fishkoff), phylacteries and tassels.
    2. Phylacteries are wooden boxes with straps.  One box was worn on the forehead and the other on the left arm, with the box pointing in toward the heart.  This meant that the Word of God would forever be before the person and forever be close to the person’s heart.
      1. The boxes contain four scriptures (Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18).
      2. The Lord never commanded the wearing of such boxes, but never condemned them either.  These phylacteries are not mentioned in the Old Testament.  This means that they began to be used post Moses’ time-about 400 B.C. (Hastings et al., vol. I–V)
      3. As time passed some people began to use lager boxes on their foreheads as competition to see who was holier.
      4. Their religion had become more show than living.  They had taken the scriptures as a literal commandment instead of what was intended-live holiness don’t show it.  Write the Law to learn it in order to live it.
      5. They wore the boxes on the forehead and close to the heart without (for some) allowing the Law to dwell in their hearts.
    3. Tassels are strings woven into prayer shawls (tallit).
      1. According to Jewish understanding, the numerical value of the Hebrew word tzitzit (fringes) is 600. Each of the fringes contains 8 threads and 5 knots, making a total of 613. Based on rabbinical Judaism, this number corresponds to the 613 commandments contained in the Torah.  (
      2. As time progressed people began to wear fancy tassels, longer ones and tugged at them as a show of their holiness.
      3. Seems like Jesus wore tassels.  The woman who had an issue of blood reached and touched the hem of His garment.  (Matthew 9:20)
    4. Jesus condemned the use of these items AS A SHOW of our religion.
    5. Are we modern-day Pharisees?  How can we tell if we are modern-day Pharisees?
  2. How can we tell if we are modern-day Pharisees?
    1. I desire attention (They “do all their deeds to be seen by others.”)  They desired to draw attention to themselves, instead of drawing attention to God.
      1. They made their phylacteries broad.
      2. They made their fringes (tassels) long
      3. In order to show how pious and spiritual they were compared to others, they made their phylacteries and tassels much larger than everyone else.  This revealed their hearts which they considered themselves superior to other people.
      4. Today, we too can be guilty of the same sin.
        1. Some might dress modestly as the Bible commands (1 Timothy 2:9-10) with the intention of pleasing God, others, on the other hand might do it to shame others.  It has to do with intentions and what is in the heart.
        2. Some might decorate their homes with angels, Bibles, religious scriptures, etc., to help them live a holy and dedicated life.  Others might do it with other means.  The intentions are important.
        3. Story of the person who had a license plate cover that read, “Follow me to the nearest Church of Christ,” and had cut off and brake checked traffic.  The other that had a fish symbol and John 3:16 on their car.  Police pulled it over, thinking the car had been stolen because the driver was extremely aggressive and liked to wave with less than 5 fingers.
    2. I desire recognition
      1. Wherever they went the Pharisees wanted to be recognized as supreme guests of honor.
        1. At a festival (party) they wanted the best seats in the house, preferably next to the host.
          1. James and John (Mark 10) wanted to be the head of the Kingdom.
          2. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45)
        2. At the market places, they wanted people to call them rabbi (Matthew 23:7)
          1. We should not accept the titles of teacher, pastor, father, etc., if the intent is to be recognized.  Father is a title that belongs to God and not man (Matthew 23:9)
          2. Too many pastors have come to love the first places everywhere, the glitz and glamor.  Some have even said that they need a private jet because they cannot pray in a plane full of heathens. ,Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis>  (Brice-Saddler) (Wootson Jr.)
      2. Recognition might be the most dangerous because it is often not too glaring, it is something that can be hidden in the heart.
    3. I desire honor:  Sometimes we want to do everything because “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” or, “If you  want something done right, I might as well do it myself.” or, “No one can do it as well as I can.”  What are the motives?  Are they to serve or to receive the honor.  There are some folks who will give a donation and demand to be recognized.
    4. You might be a modern-day pharisee if you think you are better than others.
  3. The Remedy
    1. Consider my motives
      1. The main problem with the Pharisees was not in the wearing of the phylacteries and tassels, but in their motives.
      2. Their motives were dirty, with bad intentions, with the desire to be seen as better and holier than everyone else.
      3. Why do we do the things that we do?  Why do I serve?  It must be in order to honor the Lord and not to receive the honor of men.
      4. These would have been the ones who would have made a distinction among the classes (1 Cor. 11:17-19; James 2:1ff)
      5. Galatians 3:28 - God is no respecter of persons, there are no class systems or economic differences when it comes to the person’s soul.
    2. Focus on what we have in common
      1. The Pharisees focused on their service, on their deeds, on their holiness, and felt that they were better and above everyone else.
      2. Jesus makes it clear that in order to be saved one needs to accept that he is sick, lost (Luke 19:10; Mark 2:17)
      3. Paul was a Pharisee who enjoyed the privileges.  But as a Christian, he changed his attitude (Philippians 3:2-9)
      4. In the Kingdom of God, we all have different talents and roles, but we are the same and of equal worth in the eyes of God.  (Acts 10:34; Colossians 3:9-11)
    3. Serve others
      1. Greatness is not measured by external things.  This was the Pharisees’ downfall.
      2. Greatness is measured BY GOD in how we humble ourselves and how we serve in the Kingdom.  The honor comes from God and not from man.  When we want honor from man then everything is lost. (Mark 10:45-Jesus came to serve and not to be served.)
      3. A servant’s attitude is what pleases the Lord.
    4. You might be a modern-day Pharisee is you thin you are better than other Christians.



  1. I don’t know of anyone here who wears phylacteries, sews tassels in their prayer shawls and puts up mezuzahs, but we might be guilty of the intentions we have discussed.
  2. Jesus has made it possible for us to understand and accept that we should not desire the best places in the church in order to be seen of men, that we do not do the deeds to receive the honor of men - Philippians 2:5-11; …and Jesus was obedient even to the point of death.
  3. We should not judge other people’s motives, this lesson is to look at our own hearts and make the changes we need to make.  (John 12:47; Jesus did not come to judge the world)
  4. We must recognize that we are sick and need a doctor.
  5. Plan of salvation.  1. Hear the Good News
    1. Romans 10:13 shows us that we must hear the gospel so that we know how to obey. We must first receive the good news through the teaching of God's word.
    2. Believe: A personal belief in the gospel is essential to God's plan of salvation: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).  We must believe that the one true God of the Bible sent his son Jesus from heaven as a once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. We must believe in Jesus' sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. This is the gospel, as defined in 1 Cor. 15.
    3. Confess: Romans 10:9 states that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Many teach a confession of sins prior to the point of salvation. However, the Bible teaches that we are to confess Jesus as the master of our lives.
    4. Repent: The Christian walk requires a complete 180-turn away from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. The Bible calls this act repentance.  The word repentance literally means "a change of mind and of action." When a person commits his life to Jesus, he must turn away from their old ways and habits in order to follow a new Master.
    5. Be Baptized: The Bible is very clear regarding the necessity and role of water baptism in the plan of salvation. We are told: "repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38).  Through our submission in waters of baptism, our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ, and we put on Christ like a garment (Gal. 3:26-27). We do so to share in Jesus' death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).
    6. Rise to walk a new life:  Just as Jesus was buried and rose from the dead, we must also rise from the watery grave of baptism to walk a new life in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27Rom. 6:3-4).

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