How many times have we heard the use of the words, “Do as I say, not as I do.”? That expression actually came from one of Jesus’ speeches where he is talking about the Pharisees and scribes, the religious hypocrites of his day.
Where did these Pharisees and scribes come from and why was Jesus so against them? They are not mentioned as part of the religious order in the Old Testament. These new groups came about during the 400 year period of silence between the last prophet of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. The Old Testament tells about Levite Priests, Judges, Prophets and Kings, all appointed by God, but has no mention of the religious orders of Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, and many of these other groups.
These new groups produced so many restrictions and rules that made it almost impossible for anyone to come to God. No wonder Jesus was angry. In this speech, Jesus is talking to the crowds who are following him and to his disciples, not the Pharisees; and he is telling the crowds, “Do as they say but not as they do.” Note that he is not rejecting what the scripture says, just how they are acting on it. Jesus is coming to the end of his ministry here, and is starting to make his final and closing statements. It’s a long speech, but worth the read. Read it slowly, and let it sink in. It is wise advice for all of us.
Matthew 23:1-36 ~ Religious Hypocrites Denounced
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses.Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach.They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries(small boxes containing Old Testament texts worn around their necks) and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues,greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.
“But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven.And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah.The greatest among you will be your servant.Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom ofheaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
[“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.]
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte (convert to Jew), and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.’Blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that sanctified the gold?Also, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.’Blind people! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?Therefore, the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it.The one who takes an oath by the sanctuary takes an oath by it and by Him who dwells in it.And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by Him who sits on it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 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, so the outside of it may also become clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have taken part with them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’You, therefore, testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ sins!
“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town.So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom youmurdered between the sanctuary and the altar.I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!
Sue McCusker is a writer, Bible teacher, and web developer who loves to share the stories of life, hope, and faith she sees around her every day. She has written for Guideposts and Angels on Earth magazines, and teaches the story of God in women's Bible study.