“On Your Mark”
Beware Scribes at Work (Chapter 12 Verses 38-40)
The Lord delivers a very similar warning (vv38-40). He warns against their pride, greed, and hypocrisy, not just those particular practices, but those who actually practise them (Mark 8.15). Association with them is dangerous, and Jesus recommendation is separation (v38). These men would have thought that you had been greatly privileged to rub shoulders with them in the market place, such was their arrogance. And well if you had encountered them in the synagogue? They were kings the of the castle (v39), powerful men, answerable to none, or so they thought (v40). One wonders about independent evangelical men who become like-authorities, equally answerable to no one, or so it seems. Independency is not without its problems, believe me. Neither of course is Presbyterianism, but there are more built-in safeguards.
Their behaviour was obviously common knowledge. They were looters. Helping widows in the administration of their estates, and from that trusted position devouring their estates. Oh there would be a legality to it all, more or less. This indictment must have been like a sledge-hammer blow to these men present. I mean to rob widows? How low, how despicable can you get? Some religion eh? But of course if you had heard them praying, you would never have believed it. Such eloquence, such lengths of prayer, you would have left thinking, I wish I could pray like that (Matthew 6.5)! But it was a sham, false, hypocrisy of the worse kind. I recall a minister telling of a man who used to come to the mid week prayer meetings, he was eloquent, lengthy in prayer, even reduced the congregation to tears with his prayers, till one day they found out, he was an absolute tyrant at home, a wife-beater and such. The length of our prayers, perhaps we need to look at that? Or perhaps it is the reality of them that is more important? The sentence and execution are pronounced (v40b). There are degrees of glory and degrees of punishment (Luke 12.48). For these hypocrites it will be worse. There are honest sinners, who are openly not convinced about the realities of God, and will tell you so. They live for the present world and make no bones about it. Well they will fare better in the judgment than religious hypocrites who bring religion into disrepute, who do despite to Christ and his cause, who make a laughing-stock of the Church that Jesus died for. Those whose god is their belly (Philippians 3.19), and money their greatest idol (1Timothy 6.10; 2Timothy 3.2; John 12.4-6), and who use religion for their own ends.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)