And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."
Jesus spent a lot of time pointing our the deceit and dangers of corrupted religion. That is what he is doing with this warning against the self-driven religion of the scribes. They had turned the worship of God into nothing more than another kind of selfish worldly self-promotion. And Jesus was not happy about what it did to them or taught the people.
The sick thing about being a human being born with soul depravity is that we easily make anything a bad thing. We can corrupt anything. In fact anybody can sinfully twist anything for any reason just about any time. That is what the doctrine of total depravity truly means. And no human being is immune to this. We are born selfish to one degree or another.
When we corrupt good things to our selfish purposes we are uniquely and particularly sinful. And when we do so while being viewed as a leader, big condemnation should be expected from God. That was Jesus’ point about the scribes. All that showing off, attention grabbing, pretense, and religion without substance made them robbers and liars. And it damned them more than if they had not ever been religious.
These words of Jesus still serve to warn Christians today. I know that I have a tendency to think and act “scribally” in the outward demonstration of my faith. I need the warning words of Jesus. It is sad to see so many Christian leaders who are no better than these damned scribes. Without the heart check that Jesus gives here, I know that I would be a headline-seeking selfish person as well. Jesus, keep me from duplicity in my faith!