English Standard Version (ESV)
Beware of the Scribes45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Confront Error with Condemnation not Conversation
Yesterday we saw Jesus reach out with compassion one last time to the scribes and Pharisees. He took them back to Psalm 110 and affirmed both His deity, and the necessity of the Messiah being both God and man.
And now He's done. From now on He's going to only speak to His disciples. But as He transitions, He says one more thing - to the disciples, but in the hearing of all the people. This is the last thing He says. If it's the last thing - it must be pretty important! And Jesus' final message is one of warning and condemnation.
He warns the people to beware of the scribes (and Pharisees). They are ungodly, they have nothing beneficial to offer you - stay away from them!
What were they like?
They liked to walk around in long robes - it brought attention to them and their position of spiritual authority. They weren't trying to bring attention to God's word as Numbers 15:38-40 had instructed them to do. Instead, they lengthened the tassels in order to bring attention to their "holiness".
They loved greetings in the marketplace - they wanted to be greeted with titles of dignity, like rabbi (Matthew 23:7), father (Matthew 23:9), leader (Matthew 23:10). They were proud and wanted their egos stroked with these titles.
They loved the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts - they want to be exalted and honoured in front of everyone.
All of these have to do with pride.
They devour widows' houses - they completely plundered the unprotected, weak woman - the very ones they are commanded to protect and care for ( Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 10:18, Malachi 3:5). How? As scribes (ie lawyers) they definitely had the means to do so. Apparently they charged exorbitant fees for their services, ate away at their estates under the guise of legal protection, abused their hospitality, mismanage their properties, accumulate debts causing the widows to pledge their homes and then evict them. Atrocious behaviour by the "religious elite".
They make long prayers for pretense - making a show of their piety, all the while hiding the reality of what they were.
False teachers are proud and greedy, and use their status and power to bilk the most helpless and defenseless people, they present themselves as holy but in reality, they are evil in disguise.
And Jesus condemns them in the strongest of terms (Matthew 23 has specifics).
They will receive greater condemnation. The falsely religious will receive greater condemnation, especially if they've trampled underfoot the blood of the covenant., and rejected Christ.
Jesus does not mince words, does He?!
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 21:1-4
Are passages like this being used as an excuse to decline the responsibility of leadership roles in the Church these days ~ we don't want to be held to and judged by that higher standard?
Quite possibly! It is definitely a scary thought and a huge responsibility. Though this is obviously directed towards false religious leaders (who wouldn't care about the Holy Spirit or His call).
However, if we use scriptures like these to reject the call of the Holy Spirit, we're the ones who miss out on the blessing - both of obedience, and of following His perfect plan for our lives.
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