“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29).
I have always liked that quote from the Bible, reproduced above. I can remember it from way back in Sunday School. I think what appealed to me at that time was the somewhat dismissive treatment that Jesus gave to the claims of "the scribes," those claiming to have "authority," but who didn't, really, have any genuine "authority" at all. I felt I knew what Jesus was talking about.
Young people, I believe, may have many occasions to notice that older "authorities" often claim knowledge, and the right to tell us what to do, when they don't, actually, have any real basis for this assertion of authority, at all.
Yes, I do mean that even "parents," the authorities within the family structure, sometimes overstate their claim to be able to provide authoritative direction to their children (and the children notice). Others, too, including the political "authorities" we deal with, can also make claims beyond their actual capacity (and we all ought to be aware of that phenomenon). Since I am a lot older, now, than when I first heard what Jesus said about "the scribes," I can enjoy the privilege that Judy Collins sang about, believing, and I think correctly, that I have had an opportunity to see these claims of authority "from both sides, now."
Recently, when these words of Jesus came back to me, I had a somewhat different thought about how to understand them. "The scribes," one of whom is pictured above, are really, above all, "observers." They write things down, and describe and delimit what they see, and what they have seen - what they have "observed." Those scribes, however, are not the "authors" of what they talk about. Their claims of authority, when they make them, are derivative.
Observation is, undoubtedly, important work, but the most important work is not to observe and describe; it is to "act."
To do that - to "act," to "take action" - is something we can all do!
Each one of us is an "authority," to the degree that we do take action, and "author" the deeds we do, and the creations we help bring into being. Let's all try to remember this. Our greatness is most of all to be able to "act," to do something new, and something different, that can change the world.
Let us not claim greatness and authority because we can describe things well, because we know "what's going on." Let us not be "as the scribes." Our ambitions should be more than that.
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