â€œWoe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widowsâ€™ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.â€ (Matthew 23:14)
Among the eight â€œwoesâ€ in Matthew 23 is this awful condemnation on religious leaders for misusing their office and misleading their followers. What they did was pretty serious, but the emphasis in the passage is on the â€œgreaterâ€ result of their impact on many lives. James certainly had this incident in mind when he said, â€œMy brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnationâ€ (James 3:1).
Paulâ€™s second letter to Timothy listed a series of wicked attitudes that would characterize religious leaders in the last days, warning us about the prevalent conditions. They would have a â€œform of godlinessâ€ but would deny â€œthe power thereof.â€ Those of us who love the Lord are told to â€œturn awayâ€ from them, â€œfor of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truthâ€ (2 Timothy 3:5-7).
The overriding principle is this: â€œFor unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much requiredâ€ (Luke 12:48). The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesusâ€™ day knew the Scriptures. Therefore, their hypocritical and destructive behavior received His harsh judgment.
Just so, all those who use their platform of leadership to distort truth and seek the praise of men (John 12:43)â€”whether in religious environs, in positions of political authority (as were the Pharisees and Sadducees), or merely the â€œmastersâ€ of academiaâ€”will reap â€œthe righteous judgment of Godâ€ (Romans 2:5).
May the Lord give us the discernment to avoid â€œthem which cause divisions and offencesâ€ (Romans 16:17). HMM III