Then in the audience of all the people he said to his disciples,…
These verses suggest five truths of practical importance.
I. THAT CHARACTER IS OF MORE CONSEQUENCE THAN PRECEPT. "Beware of the scribes;" they "sit in Moses' seat, and teach things that you should do" (Matthew 23:2); but their conduct is such that they are to be avoided rather than sought after. Beware of the bad man, though he be a good teacher; the influence of his life will be stronger than the effect of his doctrine; the one will do more harm than the other will do good. In a religious teacher, character is the principal thing; if that be unsound, proceed no further; seek some one else, one that you can respect, one that will raise you by the purity of his heart and the beauty of his behavior.
II. THAT UNGODLY MEN FALL INTO A FOOLISHNESS THE DEPTH OF WHICH THEY DO NOT SUSPECT. How childish and even contemptible it is for men to find gratification in such display on their own part and in such obsequiousness on the part of others as is here described (ver. 46)! To sink to such vanity is wholly unworthy of a man who fears God, and who professes to find his hope and his heritage in him and in his service. They who thus let themselves down do not know how poor and small is the spirit they cherish and the behavior in which they indulge; they do not suspect that, in the estimate of wisdom, it is at the very bottom of the scale of manliness.
III. THAT FAMILIARITY WITH DIVINE TRUTH IS CONSISTENT WITH THE COMMISSION OF THE WORST OFFENCES. The scribes themselves, familiar with every letter of the Law, could descend to heartless misappropriation in conjunction with a despicable hypocrisy (ver. 47). Guilt and condemnation could go no further than this. It is solemnizing thought that we may have the clearest view of the goodness and the righteousness of God, and yet may be very far on the road to perdition. Paul felt the solemnity of this thought (1 Corinthians 9:27). It is well that the children of privilege and the preachers of righteousness should take this truth to heart and test their own integrity.
IV. THAT THE AFFECTATION OF PIETY IS A SERIOUS AGGRAVATION OF GUILT. The "making long prayers" entailed a "greater condemnation." Infinitely offensive to the Pure and Holy One must be the use of his Name and the affectation of devotedness to his service as a mere means of selfish acquisition. The fraud which wears the garb of piety is the ugliest guilt that shows its face to heaven. If men will be transgressors, let them, for their own sake, forbear to weight their wrong-doing with a simulated piety. The converse of this thought may well be added; for it is truth on the positive side, viz. -
V. THAT DEVOUT BENEVOLENCE IS GOODNESS AT ITS BEST. TO serve our fellow-men because we love Christ, their Lord and ours, and because we believe that he would have us succor them in their need, is to do the right thing under the purest and worthiest prompting; it is goodness at its best. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples,