Woe to Religious Predators: Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47
“[14) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]” Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭14‬ ‭
Notice the unique markings on this verse. When that occurs, it is an indication that this verse does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. Later versions of the Gospel of Matthew may have borrowed this verse from Mark 12:40 or Luke 20:47. Notice that both of those Gospels include the charge that the scribes and Pharisees made a habit of devouring widows houses. What does that mean?
Notice that this eastied to the idea of making long prayers for appearance sake. This may have been similar to the practice in the Catholic Church of selling indulgences. These unscrupulous religious leaders would sell their services to say a Mass or pray departed loved ones out of purgatory. They played on the emotions of the widow who would pay huge sums of money to ensure that their loved ones would be spared suffering.
History during the Middle Ages is full of tragic examples where the church literally devoured the full estate of widows. They were easy prey. Biblical ignorance has been exploited by religious leaders throughout history. I include this merely as an example.
It appears that the scribes and Pharisees may have had a similar practice. Jesus was exposing and condemning them. Their long prayers for appearance sake may have been sold to widows for a similar reason. The whole of Scripture gives strong warnings against exploiting widows and orphans.
2 Timothy 3:6 hints that false teachers also preyed on weak women for sexual exploitation. They would “enter into households” and captivate weak women. Though the word “widow” is not used in the verse, it is not unreasonable. They were very vulnerable and therefore “weak.” This kind of exploitation and spiritual abuse is strongly condemned in the Bible.
The addition of this “woe” in Matthew 23:13 has strong biblical foundation. Woe to any religious leader who uses their position to exploit widows or prey on women and children. The condemnation Jesus pronounced on these religious predators is justified.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global