v 14 They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.
As a student, and then in my early days of working, I often helped with Crusader Camps and Houseparties. In particular, I got involved with the mountain walking groups in Scotland. My usual role was to be ‘Tail-end Charlie’ – keeping the slower walkers and plain dawdlers in touch with the main group which was guided by a more experienced hill walker. I well remember how the leader took us on a new walk, full of enthusiasm, explaining how well he knew the area. About an hour into the trip, looking at my map, I was convinced we were on the wrong path – and said so. Red-faced, we had to turn back and find our way up a different valley. Our leader had plenty of experience, carried the right map, and with cheerful confidence was taking us, he thought, the right way. He was also totally wrong!
That was akin to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They had the writings of the Old Testament – the Law and the Prophets – and they were confident in their assertions that they were going the right way as spiritual leaders in the nation. They simply were not using their Scriptures properly as a way of guiding their faith and daily practices. They were blind to the direction they were leading people. It is desperately sad when that kind of thing happens in churches, or other organisations, these days. It is a form of blindness that comes from some wrongly-based belief and misplaced confidence.
The readings this week come as a challenge to leadership in all sorts of contexts – a leader blinded by self-confidence and misplaced trust in what others might have done, is a danger to himself and those who follow.