Harsh words for hypocrites


Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell? Matthew 23:33

Some of the harshest words in the Scriptures come from the red letters of Jesus in the 23rd chapter of the gospel of Matthew. These gems of insult were reserved for the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees. He calls them, among other things: blind guides, fools, brood of snakes, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, murderers of the prophets, and children of hell. No wonder the religious rulers wanted to kill Jesus. He didn’t mince any words with these people, and these scathing criticisms were proclaimed within the hearing of the people who looked up to them. That’s one of the reasons He was so cruel and public in His denunciation of these religious leaders — He wanted to break their control over the people. He wanted to set the people free from religious bondage. You “crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (23:4), and “you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” (2:13).

Jesus had no condemnation for sinners, only for those we would call today, the clergy. Jesus has no toleration for hypocrisy. With Jesus, you are either poor in spirit and blessed, or proud in spirit and cursed. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between.

We need to keep this in mind especially in our attitude toward and treatment of those outside the fold. We have a tendency to do quite the opposite. We reserve judgment for sinners while admiring saints. We are impressed with those who lead with a flair — who write books and sell videos and hold seminars, and utilize all manner of promotion to boost their image and brand while we reserve all manner of judgment on sinners and evil doers. Should be the other way around. Of course, we don’t have the right to judge today’s Pharisees, but we do well to remember that Jesus will, and so be careful with our allegiances.

Our attitude toward the lost should be more like what Jesus expressed at the end of this chapter when he looked out over the city and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (23:37).

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4 Responses to Harsh words for hypocrites

  1. Mark D Seguin says:

    I needed Today’s Catch. Simply because I’m aware of how often I tend to judge others to try to feel better about myself. Instead of just loving them…

  2. Sandie says:

    It’s a fine line we walk – those of us who are called to be leaders – in and outside the church. We can never forget the person Jesus died for when we have to judge actions/words (with God’s help) in others. When to be gentle – when to display anger – but always in care and kindness. In Jesus’ words, I hear the echo of my own fear, frustration, anger, when someone just refuses to comprehend. Because the Pharisees are so deep in believing their own lies,blunt harshness is the only way to blow up that facade. Exposing their deliberate faults has their flock calling them to account and that would mean admitting they were all in the same boat. I have to believe (even though scripture – beyond Nicodemus and Josephus – doesn’t talk about it), that along the course of the rest of their lives some, maybe most, of these religious leaders awoke to the truth and accepted it. Words like Jesus spoke are the kind that resound in your heart and mind forever, and you can be assured that the Holy Spirit makes sure of that. I think we will be surprised at who we share eternity with…

  3. John A Fagliano says:

    Actually, the Pharisees of Jerusalem ARE the prophet killers whom Jesus wanted to gather like chicks. In spite of His condemnation of their actions, He still loved them.

  4. “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.’” — Leviticus 19:15

    If we are asked to judge someone else, or if we are put in a position where we are likely to judge another person, then it is [probably] because we ourselves have committed a sin (or sins) of a similar nature.
    God looks at how we judge others and uses our judgment as the barometer for how He will judge us. If we pass judgment with mercy and kindness, and give someone the benefit of the doubt, then God will do the same for us. But if we judge with strictness and harshness, then we ought to be very afraid for the day when God will pass judgment on us.
    However, as flawed human beings with limited knowledge, can we ever pass a truly appropriate judgment? Can we ever be certain that we are 100 percent correct in our assessment? The answer, of course, is that we cannot. We will err in one way or another – we will be either too lenient or overly harsh.
    This is why…we should judge others with an inclination in their favor. If we are going to err, we might as well err on the side that benefits the one we are judging, especially since ultimately, we are judging ourselves.
    Today, pay attention to the stories that God shows you. Notice your reactions and your judgment calls. Temper them greatly with mercy. Not only will you glorify God by showing kindness to others, but ultimately, the benefactor of your kindness will be you!

    Excerpted from Holy Land Moments Daily Devotionals (04-26-2018)
    “Judge Mercifully” by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

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