Deuteronomy 29:1-29; Luke 11:37-54; Psalms 78:23-31; Proverbs 19:1-3
NT: “As he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him. So he went in and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw this, he was amazed that he did not first perform the ritual washing before dinner. But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil. Fools! Didn’t he who made the outside make the inside too? But give from what is within to the poor, and then everything is clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves; the people who walk over them don’t know it.” One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things you insult us too.” Then he said, “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, and yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! You build tombs for the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Therefore, you are witnesses that you approve the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their monuments… Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were trying to go in.”” (Luke 11:37-48, 52 CSB)
It is very possible that the reason the Pharisee asked Jesus over for dinner was not to be cordial, but to try and trap Jesus into doing or saying something worthy of accusation. Instead of Jesus being accused of wrong, the tables were turned and the Pharisees and Scribes were accused of wrong. Saying “Woe to you” is an exclamation of grief and a condemnation of a behavior or action. When Jesus entered the Pharisee’s home, He didn’t perform the ritual washing. Ritual washings were just that: ritual. They were simply norms of tradition not commanded by the Law. They had nothing to do with hygiene, and were expected even if your hands were already clean. When Jesus perceived the Pharisee’s offense, it opened the opportunity for Him to address the religious hypocrisy of the time. The Pharisees were the “virtue signalers” of the day. They were all about signaling their virtue externally, while harboring all sorts of sinful attitudes internally. Micah 6:8 states that what the Lord requires of us is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. The Pharisees were ignoring those internal requirements while giving their full attention to every manner of nit-picky visible signal of virtue. To truly be righteous and virtuous, you need to be righteous and virtuous to your core – from the inside out. Because the Pharisees weren’t truly righteous, they were like unmarked graves that caused the people they influenced to get sucked into their defilement: leading people to believe that all that is required is external signaling. As long as you appear virtuous (and can accuse others of not being as virtuous as you), you don’t have to deal with your own failures and filth. The scribes were just as guilty. They were all about loading people down with legal requirements (while exempting themselves, of course) without offering any help or relief. They were masters of revisionist history, claiming to honor the prophets while hiding the fact that it was their own that slaughtered them. They claimed to be the experts of God’s law and they alone held the key to knowledge and understanding. They may have “known” the words of God, but they did not know the God of the word, and were just as lost in their knowledge as anyone else. But instead of humbling themselves and becoming teachable, they lorded the mysteries of God’s word over people, keeping everyone in the dark. As I read these woes that Jesus gave, I see that there is nothing new under the sun. We still deal with the same hypocrisy today. It may take different forms, but the spirit is the same. First, we must look at ourselves. Are we more concerned with virtue signaling than we are of being truly virtuous? Do we cover up past indiscretions and undealtwith attitudes by building monuments to the things we secretly despise? Do we resent those who are truly after righteousness (because their holiness may expose our sinfulness) and try to shame them from walking in truth? Secondly, who are our influencers? Are we following virtue signalers and self-proclaimed experts, or are we allowing ourselves to be led and influenced by tested, tried, humble, and integrous men and women of God – who not only know the word of God, but the God of the word?