Verse of the Day – Matthew 15:13-14
But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
These two verses today, Matthew 15:13-14, are so packed with information that we must heed. They are not only relevant to our discussion about learning to discern or about how we are called to hear and understand and do the truth even though it may be offensive. These verses are relevant to so many areas of our lives. So let us look briefly at what Jesus says to His disciples.
Jesus has spoken the truth, contradicting the man made traditions with which the Pharisees and scribes were trying to discredit Him and His disciples. He stated the truth plainly and the disciples noticed that this offended the religious leaders who had come to challenge them. And when the disciples told Jesus that these religious hypocrites had indeed been offended, He replied:
Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.
He starts by telling His disciples that men are like plants, and if they have not been planted by God the Father then they will be uprooted. He then tells the disciples to leave them alone and identifies them as blind leaders who are leading the blind and when the blind lead the blind inevitably they both fall into a ditch. Let us see what He is saying here.
Throughout the Word of God we see parables and analogies that use plants to make a point. Isaiah and Jeremiah identify Judah as a vineyard planted by God. The Psalmist refers to those who meditate on the Word of God as a “tree planted by the rivers of water.” And just a few chapters back, in Matthew 13, we read a list of parables about soils, seed, planting, and growing. John 15 speaks of Christ as the vine and we are His branches. And the Holy Spirit produces in us fruit. So this is not something new or unusual.
In Matthew 13 Jesus referred to the world as a field and said that a man planted some wheat and his enemy planted some tares. The wheat grew and the tares grew, and the only difference between the two is that wheat bears fruit but tares do not. Otherwise they look identical in the field while growing! So identical that the tares are not to be pulled up until the time of the harvest (judgment) for fear that wheat might be pulled with the tares.
And with that backdrop, in an agricultural society, Jesus says that the scribes and Pharisees who are seeking to discredit Him and who use the traditions of men to make void the Word of God are in fact plants that have not been planted by God! They are tares! The enemy is planting them and encouraging them in their mission to destroy Christ and the gospel.
However, we have this assurance – the tares will be pulled up, they will be uprooted, and they will be thrown into the fire and judged. They are not God’s plant, they are not a branch in the vine, they are not in the vineyard of the Lord. He has not planted them and so they will be uprooted.
But let us then look at what Jesus says. I find this next phrase fascinating and am truly still trying to work through the significance of what it means!
Leave Them Alone
Jesus identifies the scribes and Pharisees as having not been planted by the Father. They will be uprooted. And so Jesus says next, “Let them alone.” Leave them to their judgment. Leave them alone. Do not harass or bother them, do not mock or provoke them. Leave them alone. God will deal with them in time.
Now why would Jesus say this? What is the rationale behind leaving false teachers alone? Why should the disciples be told to leave them alone?
Often today it is believed that we are to actively work to confront false teachers and go after them for all we are worth, unmask them, fight them, debate them, expose them, and stand against them until they repent or die!
I understand that there is a proper place for apologetics. I have great respect for men like Ravi Zacharias and James White and others who do an excellent job at defending the Word of God in the face of the culture around us. But we do need to stop and think about this admonition. There are religious leaders spreading false doctrine, voiding the Word of God with their traditions, and Jesus says, “Leave them alone.”
If we all took the time necessary to study every cult and false teaching out there and if we all worked around the clock to expose every error, then all we would do day in and day out would be to study heretics and heresies. And here is the truth that we can glean from this statement and from the testimony of Scripture. Within the church – get that? it is an important distinction – within the church there are to be safeguards against false teaching and false teachers. Without the church however we have a different responsibility.
Within the church we have been given pastors (elders) who have as part of their mandate from Christ the duty to protect the congregation against false teaching. Further, each member of that church is also responsible to test whatever the elders teach and preach against the Word of God so that they are sure that what is being taught is the truth.
Without the church are we then responsible to confront each error and stand against each heresy? No. Outside the church we are responsible to proclaim one message – the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have not been given a mandate to subdue the culture around us with a christian-like standard of living or even a Biblical system of morality and law. We have instead been called to preach the gospel and invite sinners to come to Christ so that they might be saved. Our goal is not subduing the false teachers or even refuting them at every turn. Our aim is to preach Christ, to present the gospel.
Why? Because the gospel is the power of God to salvation – and to be blunt, if the people in the culture around us are not regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit then no amount of morality really matters at all! For without Christ there is no morality, no righteousness, and no goodness.
Within the church our goal is doctrinal purity – hearing and understanding and living (doing) the truth. Without the church our goal is evangelism!
So Jesus tells His disciples that these guys are going to be uprooted and judged. God the Father did not plant them. Leave them alone.
Jesus tells His disciples that these tares among the wheat are worse than just tares. They are in fact blind leaders. They do not know the truth (ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth), they do not have wisdom, they surely do not have discernment (understanding), and so we see that they are blind. They cannot see the truth. They cannot see their error. They cannot see reality!
And the people who follow them are also blind. Their eyes are shut, they are ignorant of the truth, they have no wisdom or discernment, and they are being led far astray from the Word of God and reconciliation with Him.
Blind leaders are men and women who elevate tradition above the Word of God. They teach to tickle ears. They fear men more than God. They try to make the offensive truth appealing and at the same time deny the gospel and the Word of God. They center their theology on man instead of on God. They trust their own understanding and learning and reject truth. They refuse to retain a knowledge of God in their minds and they have been or will quickly be turned over to their own depravity.
Simply stated, blind leaders and blind followers are people without discernment. And what happens when the blind lead the blind? This almost sounds like a cruel joke but it is a serious reality. If a blind person leads another blind person, neither of them can see where they are going. And eventually they will both veer off a safe course and fall into a ditch!
Can you imagine people getting offended and upset because we would speak out against the idea that the blind should be lead by the blind? Well, Jesus makes His point. Those who worship tradition and deny the Word of God, those who have no discernment, truly they cannot see. And unless God opens their eyes they and those who follow them will slip off the the road into a ditch.
Don’t let yourself be tripped up and dragged down into a doctrinal ditch! Ask God to open your eyes so that you can see! Learn to discern, for only then can you see the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)
Bible Reading For Further Study
Recommended Songs for Worship