"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats ..." (Luke 11:43)

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces." (Luke 11:43)

Why did the Pharisees 'love the most important seats'?

Jesus isn't speaking specifically of seats here.

The phrase, 'the most important seats' comes from the Greek word πρωτοκαθεδρία (prōtokathedria). This word means, according to the lexicon, the "highest seat" or the "chief seat," or "preeminence in council." The word doesn't specifically relate to the kind of seat that is sat upon.

Rather, the word is referring to position. Rank. The Pharisees were competing to have the highest rank. They each wanted to be seen as having the greatest authority within the institution.

As the Pharisees are described in the Gospels of the New Testament as "lawgivers" and "teachers," we can understand their position as being the judges and the priests of the popular Temple institution of Jesus' day. It was a hierarchy.

This might be compared to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic sect, where priests will position themselves to be appointed to positions of honor, including cardinal, bishop and pope. Jesus saw this type of competitive positioning among the Pharisees.

We can see clearly that Jesus was not a follower of these institutional Temple teachers. At the same time, we know that Jesus indeed was reverent to the teachings of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Job, Ezekiel, Malachi, and others, as well as observant to the teachings of his own teacher, John the Baptist.

And we know that Jesus followed many of the conventions of the Temple wish system. He was called "rabbi" by his followers and he often taught within the temples - not as the appointed priest but as a guest speaker.

So what was the difference between Jesus and these Pharisees if Jesus was also called "rabbi" (meaning "teacher")and taught among the temples?

Why wasn't Jesus elected or appointed?

Notice that Jesus is grouping all Pharisees into the same criticism here. Does he really mean every Pharisee? Yes. Otherwise, he would have said "some Pharisees." He is speaking of those who were elected and appointed to their official positions within the Temple institution.

Jesus was not elected or appointed to his position by other men - whether it be the councils or the high priests. Being elected or appointed subjects a person to the whims of those who elected or appointed the person. Such an elected person thereby becomes a representative of those who elected or appointed them.

This means, for example, a priest who is appointed by the church leaders and elected into his preaching post by a group of deacons must abide by the whims of those leaders and deacons.

Illustrating this, many deacon councils believe that preachers should support the importance of families. They may have an extended family, and want their preachers to support the importance of family. As a result, many preachers indeed will preach about the importance of family. Even if they are single - as in the case of Catholic priests - many will go out of their way to preach about family values.

Didn't Jesus preach about the importance of family?

Certainly not. Jesus said:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)
And when a follower wanted to attend to his father's funeral, Jesus told him:
“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)
In other words, Jesus was not teaching that our love should be focused on the family of this temporary body. He taught that our love should be focused on the Supreme Being:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.'" (Deut. 6:5, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matt. 22:37)
But he didn't mean not to love others. Rather, he said that loving others was related to - a consequence of - loving the Supreme Being:
"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:39)
In other words, ones love for the Supreme Being will automatically extend to others because others are God's children. Not just the family of our body. Everyone.

So why is the Pope teaching people that their love should be directed towards children and not the Supreme Being?

Because the Pope doesn't represent the Supreme Being. He represents those cardinals and bishops that elected him to his post.

Why are elections and appointments political?

Institutional elections of priests, ministers, popes, and cardinals - whether made by a large group of people or only one person - are political affairs. Such elections by men are made with political concerns in mind. The electors are concerned about the reputation of the institution. Thus they seek to elect someone who will further the objectives of the institution.

Why? Because they want their institution to continue because their own reputations and livelihoods are connected to the institution. If the institution gets a bad name, they will get a bad name. If the institution loses followers, then they will lose followers.

For this reason, as a candidate for such an institutional position of priest, pope, minister or cardinal campaigns or interviews for their professional post - they will maneuver to impress those who elect them.

The very process of election and appointment attracts those who seek the respect of others and seek followers. This is the purpose of their maneuvering and positioning themselves to receive the appointments and elections to their official positions.

This desire for the respect of others is being criticized here by Jesus:
"you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces."
Jesus is speaking to all Pharisees here because simply by aspiring for and accepting the post of Pharisee, such a person is desiring the respect of others. They want the "most important seats" and they want "respectful greetings." This means their goal is to achieve the admiration of others.

How can one identify a true representative of God then?

The representative of God must be selected by God. This means the process of becoming appointed or elected through a political process disqualifies such a person from being God's representative. They are representing that institution, not God.

Jesus - and those he followed including John the Baptist, David, Moses, Jacob, Abraham and so on - were not elected by any councils of men. They were anointed by an individual - meaning they followed the teachings of their predecessor. This does not include being appointed as king - as were David and Solomon. King or other government position - whether of Israel or otherwise - is a necessary political position and requires acceptance of leadership. Being appointed a king did not make David or Solomon a representative of God. They represented God only because God empowered them to do so.

Jesus and his lineage - all the Prophets as well as his devoted disciples - were empowered directly by the Supreme Being to represent Him. They learned the teachings of their teacher, and devoted themselves to God. It was their devotion to God that empowered them - not any appointment.

Many of them - like Jesus, John, Zechariah, Jonah, Malachi, Micah, Hosea, Daniel, Amos, and others - were in fact outsiders to the Temple institutions of their times, and many of them preached against the organized Jerusalem temple of their day.

In fact, the reason why many of them were called "Prophets" in the first place is because they warned ("prophesized") those among the organized institutions of the dire consequences of their rejection of God. As their warnings were not initially heeded, their predictions typically became true - although in some cases such as in Jonah's warning against the town of Nineveh, warnings were heeded and this averted the prophecy of Jonah.

As such, it is hypocrisy for those who purport to follow these non-institutional Prophets (including Jesus) - to require their teachers to be appointed by their institutions in order to be considered bona fide.

In reality, none of the real Prophets were chosen or elected by councils - or even the preceding prophet.

What made them God's representative was the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being personally selected and empowered each of them, because the Supreme Being was pleased with their devotion to Him. This was described in the Book of Matthew with regard to Jesus:
And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son [Representative], whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17)
This scenario - of being pleasing to the Supreme Being - was described with respect to Moses in the Book of Exodus:
And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you" (Exodus 33:17)
There are other statements that indicate the importance of pleasing the Supreme Being:
"For the sake of His Great Name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you His own." (1 Samuel 12:22)
"Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, He will bring me back and let me see it and His dwelling place again." (2 Samuel 15:25)

"Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for You, Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with Your blessing the house of Your servant will be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:29)

"The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this." (1 Kings 3:10)

"Now you have been pleased to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever in Your sight; for You, LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.” (1 Chronicles 17:27)

"I know, my God, that You test the heart and are pleased with integrity." (1 Chron 29:17)

For You are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with You, evil people are not welcome. (Psalms 5:4)

"Though they offer sacrifices as gifts to Me, and though they eat the meat, the LORD is not pleased with them." (Hosea 8:13)

"I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands." (Malachi 1:10)

Is God a void or impersonal force?

The verses above indicate clearly that the Supreme Being is not a void or vague impersonal force. The Supreme Being is a person. He is the Supreme Person.

Therefore, in order to please the Supreme Being, we must first accept that He is a person, and like any person, there are things He likes and things He doesn't like.

Let's say, for example, that we wanted to please our father on father's day. Would we necessarily be pleasing to our father if we ignored him but sent the company he retired from a gift? Later the father would look at us and say something like, "why would you send a gift to a company I once worked for? And why didn't you at least call me?"

In this example, because we didn't direct our attention and gifts directly at our father, he would most certainly be offended. He would not be pleased. Why? Because he is more interested in our relationship with him. Even if we didn't send a gift to the father on father's day, but simply called him and had a nice talk with him - he'd be pleased.

And this is the point in pleasing the Supreme Being. Pleasing the Supreme Being is about having a relationship with Him. It is about focusing our love, attention, and activities towards pleasing the Supreme Being that is important to Him.

On the other hand, trying to use Him or those institutions that supposedly worship Him to gain the respect of others is not pleasing to Him, as we can see from Jesus' statement about the Pharisees.

Remember that we were 'made in the image' of the Supreme Being. This means we have many of the same tendencies as the Supreme Being. And just as we like to exchange relationships, the Supreme Being enjoys the exchange of relationships.

In fact, our very existence is based upon the Supreme Being's desire to exchange loving relationships. This is our purpose for being created. We were each created to exchange a unique loving relationship with the Supreme Being: We were made to love and lovingly serve the Supreme Being within a personal, unique and intimate relationship.

But because real love requires freedom, the Supreme Being gave each of us the freedom to love Him or not. And those of us who chose not to love Him have been sent away to the physical world and given temporary physical bodies.

Why? In order to be able to forget Him. These temporary physical bodies and this physical world are designed specifically to allow us to ignore the Supreme Being, and forget our former relationship with Him.

But the Supreme Being doesn't want to let us go forever. He wants us to return to Him because He knows only our relationship with Him will make us happy. But He only wants us to return to Him when we decide we want to return to Him. He never forces us to worship Him or even believe in His existence.

This is the purpose of our having physical eyes that can't see Him. It is also the purpose for the so many philosophies, belief systems and institutions that ignore the existence of the Supreme Being: They allow us to impress others with our religiosity yet still completely ignore the Supreme Being if we want.

This is also the purpose of the so many temptations and allurements of the physical world. They are meant to draw our focus and attention away from Him for those of us who are not determined to return to our relationship with Him.

In other words, to please the Supreme Being, we must be determined to return to our relationship with Him. We must be willing to forego everything else in order to please Him.

And only such a person - who is willing to give it all up to please Him - can return to our relationship with Him, and if God chooses, be empowered to represent Him.

This is why Jesus and Moses used the words, "with all your heart," "with all your soul," "with all your strength" and "with all your mind" in their instruction of how to love the Supreme Being. "All" means everything. They wanted us to give all our love to the Supreme Being, and only then will we be truly pleasing to Him. And only then will we be truly happy.