For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
An old phrase comes to mind when I read this verse; do as I say, not as I do. Of course I wanted to find out where that phrase originated.
I discovered it was first coined by an English jurist named John Selden in a book he wrote in 1654. The book was published posthumously, 35 years after it was written. It’s title, “The Table-Talk of John Selden”.
Christ had preached about those who practiced do as I say, not as I do, when he spoke of the hypocrisies of the High Priests and Pharisees. For instance:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
We all at some point don’t practice what we preach and practice our share of hypocrisy throughout our lives. Especially those of us who have raised children and vehemently instruct them to not do the very things we did in our youth and maybe still do to this day. In our defense, we just don’t want them to make the same mistakes.
But one thing that Paul wrote to the Galatians in this verse took me away from the old phrase do as I say not as I do, and moved me towards the hypocrisies of the High Priests and Pharisees of today.
…but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
This part of the verse could be interpreted as a parent or person wanting to live vicariously through the accomplishments of others or their children. That alone is a rather screwed up thing to do.
We are individuals, given gifts from God to live our own life of righteousness. So to obtain a sense of self-worth through the actions of others is to deny ourselves and the gift we were given.
But today’s High Priests and Pharisees, and I’m not talking about any church, I’m talking about those who wish to rule over us as the High Priests and Pharisees who ruled over the Jews under the watch of the Romans. These leaders don’t live their lives through us.
They view us as their subject. For them to live their lives vicariously through us, they would have to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. Here the words, “that they may boast in your flesh”, means to achieve their desire for power and wealth through others.
It means to boast of the power and wealth they have obtained through no value of their own other than circumcising the uncircumcised to take from them and redistribute to the High Priests and Pharisees. And all of this being done under the ruse of do as I say for the betterment of the subjects.
They boast of their redistribution of wealth, accomplished by taking from the uncircumcised through the pontificating about how it is their duty to humanity and justice, but it’s all for their own greed, power and ego. This is their ability to “boast in your flesh”.
You must give and sacrifice and follow the laws they have laid down, the laws for the uncircumcised. But the laws are not meant for the circumcised.
I wonder if Paul knew just how prophetic these words are when he was writing them.
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