Hipocrisy and Deceit

Matthew 23: 13-22
2Thes 1: 1-5,11-12 / Ps 96

You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
(Matthew 23:13)

No oaths can bind lies and deceits,
As made by “scribes and Pharisees”;
When remedied by hypocrites,
The cure is worse than the disease.

(Jesus said), “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.” (Matthew 23:13-22)

Reflection

How were the scribes and Pharisees “shutting the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces”, and preventing themselves and others from entering? We can see this in two ways. First, they made interpretations of the Law of Moses too burdensome and numerous to follow, 613 “commandments” in the Torah alone. Jesus knew that they themselves did not follow all of them. But more than this, they were always trying to discredit the teachings of Jesus, thus preventing the Jews from seeing Him as the true Way to the Kingdom of heaven. They themselves would never enter the kingdom because of their hypocrisy and evil intentions against the Lord.

Jesus did not hold his punches when He condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Appearances were all that mattered to them, totally convinced that strict adherence to their laws and religious observances were all that mattered. They were more concerned with the ritual and the financial (the gold in the temple), rather than the vital and the essential. That was why their faith was artificial, and they lacked sincerity in their thoughts, words and actions. Jesus saw how the religion of Israel had degenerated because of their pride, their greed, and their compromises with the ruling Roman conquerors.

Jesus could well be addressing His rebuke to some people in the church and in the government of the present day. When our church and government leaders become more concerned about modernizing their parish or office facilities and vehicles rather than the needs of the destitute people under their jurisdiction, they are no different from the scribes and Pharisees, becoming stumbling blocks to those who look up to them for true leadership and good example. The “gold in the temple” may refer to the indiscriminate use of tithes and donations from parishioners, or the taxes that become “pork barrels” of our congressmen and senators. Thank God the present dispensation has given new hope to our countrymen that graft and corruption among our “teachers of the law” will soon be greatly minimized if not totally eradicated.

Heavenly Father, please help our president and his team of dedicated leaders achieve their dream of cleaning up our government of all corruption and anomalous practices in the past for the sake of our poor suffering countrymen, for the prosperity of our nation, and for the future of our children. Amen.

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