Matthew 23:14. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall recieve the greater damnation.”
The words that Jesus hurled at the scribes and Pharisees would be returned to Him in the form of scourging, of a crown of thorns, and of nails in His hands and feet. He knew it. He knew He was paving the road to Calvary with these condemning words, yet they were words that needed to be spoken.
They need to be spoken today, as well. The outward forms of “religion” may have changed, but the heart of man does not change. There are those who insist that if we’re going to reach today’s youth, we need to make the Bible more “in tune” with the times. I submit to you that there is no more timely Book in history than the Bible. It speaks to the root of the problem: The human heart, which is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). This is not the first era in history in which people seem to be turning away from God. If He tarries, it won’t be the last. Our job is not to entertain or be like the world in order to win the world. Our job is to lift up Jesus.
Ye devour widows’ houses: A widow in Israel was most unfortunate unless her husband had left her financially secure. She had to depend on her family for her subsistence, and she was shown no mercy in the paying of temple fees and other taxes. If she had no money to pay the temple tribute, then her house could be taken away by the High Priest.
Ye make long prayer: Boy, do I remember some people like this. They could really pray, you know? Sonorous voices, rolling phrases, lengthy petitions and, often, sermons were included in the “prayer.” I remember, as a very small girl, attending prayer meeting with my parents. Children stayed in the service with the adults, and were expected to be quiet and to listen. When the prayer time started, people would stand to pray. Often, their prayers were heartfelt, humble, and would bring me to tears as they poured their hearts out to God. Then there were the others, who rambled on and on and never really got anywhere. I remember, one time, Dr. Clearwaters (pastor of Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis), interrupting the one who was praying by saying, “Amen, Brother Suchandso, amen. Thank you, And now we’re going to sing “God Be With You ’til we Meet Again.”
I could hardly contain my giggles. I was delighted to know I wasn’t the only one who was bored brainless by the longwinded prayer.
There’s a joke that made the rounds some time ago, about a little girl who had to listen to a verbose prayer. When it was over, she said out loud, “Help, Lord!” Which is really all we need to say, sometimes.
Greater damnation: You scribes and Pharisees will receive a greater damnation than those over whom you rule with such an iron hand.
Jesus really had a way with words, didn’t He?