TAG Ministries Foundation, Inc.


One Master, One Father, One Teacher 

Matthew 23:1-12

The Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in Heaven.  Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

It seems entirely appropriate for Jesus to introduce the Seven Woes to the crowds and his disciples with the above verses, none of which are complimentary to the clergy of the day.  Jesus was leading up to something while doing this as the religious leaders had some serious flaws in their character, and Jesus made it absolutely clear with his evaluation of the situation just where the problems lie.  Jesus complimented very few people while going about his mission of making his Father known, and it certainly is no exception in the case of these Seven Woes.

I would venture a guess that what Jesus told the crowds and his disciples 2,000 years ago is still viable and true today.  As the following verses of Scripture concerning the Seven Woes indicate, the teachers of the law and Pharisees are labeled as hypocrites by Jesus.  This certainly raised a few eye brows and the blood pressure of the religious elite then, along with elevating previous intentions to kill Jesus.  As far as the authorities were concerned, this man called Jesus was digging his own grave because he had undermined just about everything there was in regard to the religious establishment.  What would happen today if Jesus would utter the same words to the present-day religious community?  Would the clergy be upset?  Would the crowds even care or understand what he would be saying?   Would he again be labeled a rebel and an outcast? 

Matthew 23:13-39

Woe #1.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Woe #2.
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

Woe #3.
“Woe to you, blind guides!  You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, if means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’  You blind fools!  Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, his is bound by his oath.’  You blind men!  Which is greater: the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And he who swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it.  And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”

Woe #4.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices  -  mint, dill and cummin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law  -  justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

Woe #5.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Woe #6.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Woe #7.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’  So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

“You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?  Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers.  Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.  And so you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.”

A careful and thorough study of these Seven Woes describes the full extent how religious authorities think they are doing the right thing, but in essence are promoting their own practices which edify only themselves.  In doing so, these so-called ‘representatives of God’ deserve the rebuke and the rightful acknowledgement from Jesus contained in these woes.  Jesus has never been one to mince words, especially when the results of these woes are taken into consideration.  It's no laughing matter, according to Jesus; this is serious stuff!

What has really transpired that Jesus would call the teachers of the law and Pharisees hypocrites?  It seems as though nothing more detrimental could be used to describe the character of the religious leaders, or anyone as far as that goes.  To be called a hypocrite is about the most demeaning attribute anyone would like to receive from someone else, but this only underscores the seriousness involved.  In addition to being called hypocrites, being called blind guides, blind fools, and blind men surely does nothing for one’s well-being, as well as being called snakes and a brood of vipers!  Jesus is totally upset with the religious leaders.

The Desolate Chicken House (in real life!).
The description of the Seven Woes concludes on a terribly sad note  -  the house of God at Jerusalem is empty…of truth about God.  In place of truth about God, the teachers of the law and Pharisees have substituted their own faulty theories that have been handed down from generation to generation.  They shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces and refuse to enter it themselves; they travel over land and sea to instruct others who become “sons of hell,” in fact, they become twice as bad as the teachers who instruct them!  (Is this modern global evangelism, or what?).  And then in the third woe, there’s a lot of swearing going on in regard to an oath, either by the temple or the gold; by the altar or the gift; by the temple and he who dwells in it; by heaven and who sits on God’s throne.  What does all this mean?  Well, a person had better be careful when he takes an oath and by what he uses to substantiate and/or confirm it.  

What good is it if you are responsive and give a tenth of all your income and wealth, but neglect justice, mercy, and faithfulness?  You’re wasting your time and God’s time too if you think he is impressed with your monetary contributions and your spices, as if these could be used to measure your spirituality. And for goodness’ sake, straining out a gnat in the drinking water, yet swallowing a camel! People: listen and pay attention!  God is not blind - you are! 

It’s okay that you know how to wash dishes to make them shine and glitter, but take heed: how things look on the outside leaves a lot to be desired, because the proof of the pudding is on the inside - that’s what counts!  And the same is true with your physical bodies.  You bathe your body and comb your hair; you paint your face to look nice, but it’s only a cover-up job!  What you think and what you are determines your character, and no amount of outside cleansing and re-arranging outside features can change any of that.  Both wickedness and goodness are born on the inside and have their roots there.  True beauty is found deeper than a person’s skin!

Why do you care more about the dead than you do about the living?  Why do you build monuments to the past and have little or no concern for the present, let alone the future?  You want to uphold and glorify those from whom you have descended, but since you do the same things they have done, you confine yourselves to their way of thinking.  If you are content being their offspring, you will likewise be held accountable for all of their misdeeds.  Haven’t you learned by now that God is your friend, that he wants to gather all of you around him so he can teach you about himself?  What will it take to convince you?  God’s Son came here in person but you didn’t like him; he told you the truth about his Father, and you ignored him.  You have a hearing problem and are not willing to listen.  There’s no hope for you, only desolation.

Return to Short Topics page

TAG Ministries is a not-for-profit operating foundation that has no affiliation with any religious organization, denomination or church.


TAG Ministries Foundation, Inc. ©2002
All rights reserved.