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For what reason does Jesus pronounce woe upon the scribes and Pharisees in Mat 23:25?  For the fifth time in His denunciation of them on this occasion, what does He call them in Mat 23:25 for their attention to outward appearances without the same regard for inward holiness?  What is the significance of Jesus’ figure of speech that He uses to describe their hypocrisy?  See Mar 7:1-4.  In spite of cleaning the outside of their cup so it appeared clean to others, what was the first thing Jesus said their inside was full of?  Notice that while many of the modern versions translate the Greek word used here as greed, and the KJV as extortion, the word refers properly to robbery or to the plunder or spoil that has been seized by robbery; see Heb 10:34 where the same word is translated variously as seizure (NAS), spoiling (KJV), confiscation (NIV), or plundering (ESV).  What is meant by robbery, and how is it different from theft?  See Luk 10:30, 2Co 11:26 and contrast Jer 2:26, Joe 2:9, Mat 24:43, Joh 12:6.  Are we to suppose that the scribes and Pharisees were committing literal acts of robbery?  Think: would the outside of their cup have appeared so clean if they were?  Who then were they guilty of plundering, and in what way were they doing so?  See Isa 3:14, 10:2, Mar 12:40-44.  Shall we suppose that those who exploit the poor today, especially by means of religion, are seen by God any differently?  Although men who see only the outside do not view those like the scribes and Pharisees who exploit the poor as robbers, what does Jesus’ description teach us about how God views them?  What exactly was the violence in such things that associated their deeds with robbery?  See Eze 22:26-29, 28:15-16, 45:9; cf. Mar 7:9-13.  What do these things teach us about the importance of social justice in the eyes of God?

What was the second thing Jesus said the cup of the scribes and the Pharisees that appeared so clean on the outside was full of?  What is self-indulgence?  Notice that the word is translated as excess by the KJV and pleasure seeking by the CEB; see also 2Ti 3:3 where a cognate word is translated without self-control or profligate (NRS).  In what way does this describe many people today, and indeed, the entire age in which we live?  In what way does it describe many Christians today?[1] What does this teach us about how God views a life of careless waste?  Besides preventing us from doing good, in what way does being self-indulgent and living in excess without self-control actually harm us both physically and spiritually?  How much healthier might we be if our appetites were not so self-indulgent, and if we had more rest and peace because there was not so much excess in our lives from seeking the pleasures of the world and working ourselves to death to obtain them?  What do these things help us understand about the nature of the scribes and Pharisees and how they were not so very different from the way many Christians are today?  Should Christians today who are not so different from the scribes and Pharisees suppose that because they are “saved” that they are not equally condemned by Jesus’ words?  Think: Did not the Pharisees and other religious leaders also believe that they were “saved”?  Cf. Mat 3:7-10.

Was it the case that the inside of the scribes’ and the Pharisees’ cup was just a little dirty, perhaps a spot here or there that the dish-washer accidentally missed and that a gracious guest would overlook?  Consider that the Greek word for “full” was used in the LXX in Gen 37:25 for camels “heavily loaded”, in 2Ch 9:21 for ships “laden” with gold, and in Amo 2:13 for a cart “weighted down” with sheaves.  Again, what does this teach us about the very different perception God may have about a person when He looks beyond the outward appearance that man looks at to see within their cup?  Cf. 1Sa 16:7.


1. Many years ago when I was at Oxford, on a cold winter’s day, a young maid (one of those we kept at the school) called upon me.  I said, “You seem half starved.  Have you nothing to cover you but that thin linen gown?”  She said, “Sir, this is all I have!”  I put my hand in my pocket, but I found I had no money left, having just spent what I had on some pretty pictures for my wall.  [Pictures in those days were more expensive than today.]  It immediately struck me, “John Wesley, will your Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant?’  No, indeed.  For you have adorned your walls with the money that might have protected this poor creature from the cold!”  How often have you prevented yourself from doing good by purchasing that which you did not need?  John Wesley, The Complete Sermons.

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