Thrive: KEEP OUT – Katie McKown


“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
— Matthew 23:13-16 (NRSV)

As a girl I posted a friendly little sign on my door: “This is Katie’s Room. KEEP OUT!” On occasion I deigned to let my brother in to play with me, but whenever we had a spat, I would lock the door to underline the point: KEEP OUT.

Anger can cause us to lose the capacity to listen. At best, when we are angry we pretend listen. Pretend listening is listening to respond instead of listening to understand. Pretend listening is listening to fight back instead of listening to move forward. When we are angry, we interrupt. We posture our faces and bodies to say “case closed.” Anger often shuts our ears and opens our mouths. Because we put our trust in sound-bite politics and sound-bite theology, we barely even understand the other’s argument. We regurgitate popular phrases. We hurl small-minded insults.

Instead of listening to grow and understand, we dismiss people before they open their mouths. We lock the door and say, “You’re too conservative.” “ You’re too liberal.” “You’re too . . . what I’m not.”


The scribes’s and Pharisees’s inability to see their hypocrisy led them to lock the door.


When we read Matthew 23, we are tempted to point at others’ hypocrisy instead of seeing our own. “I’m so glad I’m not like that. I’m so glad I don’t keep people out.” Pish posh. What can you learn? How can you grow? Don’t worry about who Sally and Joe are keeping out. What about you? Who are you trying to keep out?

Perhaps instead of keeping people out, we could consider starting a locksmith business . . . you know, for Jesus. When a brother doesn’t see eye to eye with a sister in a business meeting, try your best to facilitate understanding. When two friends gossip about Bob, encourage them to resolve conflict in a healthy way. There are too many folks with a KEEP OUT sign on their door. The world needs more locksmiths. Won’t you join me and try?

katie mckown_smKatie McKown is the pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church in Scottsville, Virginia. She is a graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco. Katie enjoys blogging at Hermeneutics in High Heels and cheering for the Washington Nationals.

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  1. Joseph Griffin says

    So very well said Katie! And I confess, I needed this Word from God through you today. Thank you very much for sharing your gifts…

  2. What a wonderful word, Pastor Katie. Thanks for this today!

  3. I needed this today because I’ve had two foot surgeries this year, and my foot is worse, not better. I need to talk to my doctor, who is not willing to listen now. Help me unlock a way to talk with her, Lord.

  4. Good word Katie!