Woe To You Scribes and Pharisees

Matthew 23 is an interesting chapter in which Jesus Christ rakes the scribes and Pharisees over the coals. This chapter could be called the "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" chapter. This phrase is used 8 times in this chapter. The definition for ‘hypocrite’ is an actor under an assumed character (stage-player).

Jesus uses other terms to condemn the Pharisees, such as: "blind guides," "fools and blind," "whitewashed tombs" and finishes with "brood of vipers"!

Let’s read this chapter and notice some comments. As we read please notice Jesus Christ's indictments of the Pharisees' religion:

Matthew 23: "Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, {2} Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: {3} All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not."

» They set a terrible example by not following their own teaching.

{4} "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

» They abused their office by burdening others with strict requirements while not requiring the same of themselves.

{5} "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,"

» What they did do was only for vanity and show.

{6} "And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,"

» They were social climbers.

{7} "And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. {8} But be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brethren. {9} And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. {10} Neither be you called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. {11} But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. {12} And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. {13} But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in."

» Their teaching had negative results, driving people farther from the Kingdom rather than closer to it .

{14} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation."

» Their twisted reasoning led them to steal even from the widows (verse 14).

{15} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. {16} Woe unto you, you blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!"

» Their misguided zeal made their proselytes twice as bad as they were before they were even "converted" to Pharisaism.

{17} "You fools and blind: for which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? {18} And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever swears by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty."

» Gold, money and greed became their main focus and god.

{19} You fools and blind: for which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? {20} Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things thereon. {21} And whoso shall swear by the temple, swears by it, and by him that dwells therein. {22} And he that shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him that sits thereon. {23} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. {24} You blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."

» Their perspective was so perverted that they would pay more attention to keep from swallowing a gnat than they would a camel.

{25} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. {26} You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. {27} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."

» How others saw them was far more important than moral values.

{28} Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. {29} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, {30} And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. {31} Wherefore you be witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the prophets. {32} Fill you up then the measure of your fathers. {33} You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? {34} Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall you scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: {35} That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. {36} Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. {37} O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that killed the prophets, and stoned them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and you would not!"

» While they extolled the virtues of past men of God, they were so deeply hateful and murderous that they would kill Christ and any of His followers that they could.

{38} Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. {39} For I say unto you, You shall not see me henceforth, till you shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

» Their religious house was utterly worthless and desolate, bereft of any contact with or influence of God, though they thought they were perfectly righteous. In a word, they were self-righteous hypocrites.

Return to ICOG Newsletter Page