Beware of the scribes
- The scribes were lawyers.
- Their primary concern was the Old Testament Law.
What Jesus says about scripture (Matthew 15:17-19)
- All of scripture will be fulfilled (or accomplished).
- Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture (I have come to fulfill them).
- Scripture must be fully believed and obeyed (must not be relaxed).
- We must teach scripture.
What Jesus says about the scribes (Matthew 15:20ff)
- Their righteousness is inadequate to enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Their teaching is wrong (“You have heard that is was said . . . but I say to you . . .” six times in Matthew 5).
- The Old Testament instructed them to wear tassels as reminders of God’s commands (Numbers 15:38-39).
- The scribes turned them into elaborate, expensive robes.
- They used the robes to exalt themselves not to direct focus to God and his commandments.
Greetings in the marketplaces
- The scribes desired to be honored.
- They wanted to be called Rabbi and Father and to be addressed with great respect.
The best seats in the synagogues / places of honor at feasts
- There were seats on an elevated platform in the synagogues that they coveted.
- There were Rabbinic writings that set down elaborate directions for how the honored seats at a feast should be assigned.
Devoured widows’ houses
- We are not told the nature of this offence.
- It may include deliberate, dishonest attempts to enrich themselves at the widows’ expense.
- But the rest of this list of condemnations are perversions of otherwise appropriate behaviors.
- It seems more likely that this refers to some neglect or abuse that resulted from their pride.
- The purpose of the scribes’ prayers was not worship, thanksgiving, confession, or humble supplication.
- Their prayers were offered solely for the sake of appearance.
- The scribes are focused on their own honor.
- They pervert the things of God in order to exalt themselves.
- In doing so, they try to rob God of his glory.
- That is the ultimate offence against God.
The Widow’s Offering
- A common interpretation of this passage is that Jesus is commending sacrificial giving.
- Sacrificial giving is a virtue, but that may not be Jesus point here:
- It doesn’t fit the context, placed between two passages of warning and condemnation.
- It would suggest that the only acceptable gift is on that leaves you destitute.
- Jesus didn’t actually praise her gift — he merely states that she has given more.
- Rich (plousios) means those who have enough — not necessarily the extremely wealthy.
- They were giving money that they could afford to give.
- There is no requirement to give more that (or even as much as) you can afford, and Jesus does not comment negatively on their affordable gifts.
- Poor (penichrōs) describes someone who is needy but not destitute (ptochōs).
- That Jesus just mentioned a widow two verses earlier is significant.
- The scribes, Jesus said, were responsible for bringing widows to ruin.
- Something in their teaching, example, or action was causing harm to the widows.
Two small copper coins
- This is a very small amount, nearly the smallest gift possible.
- It was all she had to live on — a gift she could not afford.
This poor widow
- In verse 3, Jesus uses the word ptochōs (destitute).
- She came in merely penichrōs (needy) but she left ptochōs (destitute).
Gifts into the offering box
- Like most things, the scribes had perverted the offering box into a vehicle for their own self-aggrandizing.
- Gifts given to the treasury were often announced.
- They taught that they earned God’s favor for giving gifts and then claimed honor for going so.
More than all of them
- We don’t know the widow’s motives.
- It’s not hard to imagine that she followed the teaching and example of the scribes, hoping to gain favor with God and change her situation.
Do not be like the scribes
- Do not be like the scribes to your children.
- Do not be like the scribes to other believers.
- Do not be like the scribes to the lost.
Do not be influenced by the scribes
- Do not follow celebrity Christians unquestioned.
- Carefully check all teachers against the Bible.