“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13, 15)
Jesus gives many warnings. However, the tone of most of most of the warnings of Jesus are redemptive in nature. He warns us so that we will avoid the snares of the Devil.
However, when it comes to the warnings in Matthew 23, Jesus’ warnings go a different direction. He doesn’t just warn of Satan’s traps. He doesn’t say that we should avoid the temptation. He simply and straightforwardly condemns.
What does He condemn? In verses 13 and 15 He condemns those who would bar the door of the Kingdom from others. Either through active disobedience or through legalistic burdens, those He condemns are keeping people from following God. They encourage by their life a rejection of God’s call. They discourage by their additions to God’s call anyone from being willing to say yes.
Do we ever see ourselves in Jesus’ warnings? Do we see ourselves neglecting our relationship with God so much that we are no longer a witness for Him? Do we see ourselves in another person’s way of trusting in Jesus because we are presently neglecting our own salvation? They see no difference, no transformation in our life and so they reject Christ’s message. Is that us?
Or perhaps we see ourselves in the way we try to help new believers conquer sin. We would never make ourselves a slave to rules and regulations which would make us believe that we have to somehow earn God’s approval (as if such a thing were even possible for fallen man), but perhaps those new Christians have received from us a list of do’s and don’ts which communicate the same thing. We haven’t encouraged them to let the love of Jesus guard their hearts and minds. Instead, we give them the very list of commandments that they have already discovered that they cannot keep. So, instead of drawing them to Jesus we simply increase their hopelessness.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day are easy marks for our criticism today. Yet, these are the strongest warnings of Jesus against self-righteousness. They were true warnings then. They are true warnings now. May we heed them.
Something to think about,