Matthew 23:16-22 (Religious Fools)

By distinguishing an oath sworn by the gold of the temple as more binding than an oath sworn by the temple itself, what did the scribes and Pharisees reveal was more important in their minds: the gold of the temple, or the temple itself?  Why is this significant?  See Luk 16:14, 20:47; cf. Mar 7:9-13[1].  By distinguishing an oath sworn by the gift upon the altar as more binding than an oath sworn by the altar itself, what did they reveal was more important in their understanding: the things they give to God as the works of their own hands, or the things God has given to men by which they might be saved?  Why is this significant?  See Eph 2:8-9.  What did Jesus say was more important in each case, and why? See Mat 23:17,19; cf. Exo 29:36-37, 30:25-29.  What does this teach us about our gifts to God: Is it any amount of treasure we might give that commends us to God, or rather, is it a pure heart, a holy temple of God’s Spirit consecrated by the blood of Christ, that sanctifies our gifts and makes them acceptable to Him?  Cf. Eph 2:19-22.  Is it any offering in itself we might make that commends us to God, or rather, is it the holy altar of a cross that has been consecrated by the blood of Christ and is taken up daily that sanctifies the works of our hands and makes our gifts a soothing aroma and pleasing sacrifice to Him?  Cf. Rom 12:1, Eph 5:2, Phil 4:18, Heb 13:15-16, 1Pe 2:5.

Consider that the scribes and Pharisees were misleading others by not only making distinctions that eroded the trustworthiness of men’s words to the point that even sworn oaths were not necessarily to be considered binding, but also communicating false notions about the most important part of true worship that makes our gifts acceptable and pleasing to God.  What did Jesus repeat three times in this context to describe the scribes and Pharisees for making such false distinction?  See Mat 23:16,17,19.  Although a blind man under normal circumstances is not considered culpable for being unable to see, is that the case here?  Why not?  Cf. Joh 9:39-41, and consider if a man with failing eyesight to the point of being legally blind was able to convince others to let him drive them to church but wrecked along the way so that a person was killed: would he be culpable then?  Besides blind men, what else does Jesus call the scribes and Pharisees in Mat 23:17 for the distinctions they were making?  Would these most educated and religious men of the day have considered themselves to be fools?  What was it that made them fools in the same sense that is illustrated throughout Scripture?  See Deut 31:28-32:6, Is 32:5-6, Jer 5:21-23, Mat 7:26, 25:2-4 where the same word is used.  Is it possible that we too could be fools for supposing ourselves to be the people of God but being empty of the oil of His Spirit that makes us holy?

Recall that in Mat 5:22 Jesus spoke against anger as murder in the heart, and warned that “whoever says, ‘You fool’, shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell”; is Jesus here in Mat 23:17 guilty of violating His own teaching?  What does His calling the scribes and Pharisees fools here (same Greek word) indicate about His warning in Mat 5:22?  Is it any particular formulation of words spoken in anger that is condemned as murder, or the spirit in which they are spoken?  Cf. Luk 11:40, 12:20, 1Co 15:36.  Although Jesus here in holy anger calls them fools and even condemns them to hell (Mat 23:33), what is different about the spirit that filled Him from the spirit that is condemned as murder?  See Luk 4:1, Joh 8:44, 1Jo 3:15, and think: was the spirit of Jesus’ anger one of murder, or righteous indignation?  Was it motivated by hate, or love?

Although the scribes and Pharisees sought to distinguish between oaths on the basis of what they were sworn upon in order to make them more or less binding, Jesus demonstrated how foolish their reasonings were, comparing them to blind men who stumble in their own darkness; what conclusion does He then make in regard to their false distinctions?  See Mat 23:20-22.  What does this remind us about the nature of any oath: regardless of the particular formulation, who is it ultimately invoking to hold one accountable for what is spoken?  Again, for those in God’s kingdom should there ever be a need for others to doubt their word?  What then is Jesus’ command for those who would enter His kingdom in regard to the swearing of oaths?  See Mat 5:33-37, Jam 5:12.  And again, what condemnation does Jesus pronounce upon the scribes and Pharisees for how, in spite of their religious pretense, the distinctions they made in regard to oaths distinguished them as being far removed from the kingdom of God?  See the first three words of Mat 23:16.

 


1. Those who had made gold their hope, and whose eyes were blinded by gifts in secret, were great friends to the Corban; and, gain being their godliness, by a thousand artifices they made religion truckle to their worldly interests.  Corrupt church-guides make things to be sin or not sin as it serves their purposes, and lay a much greater stress on that which concerns their own gain than on that which is for God’s glory and the good of souls.  Matthew Henry

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