38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
If some people would invest as much effort in being spiritual as they invest in appearing to be spiritual, they would be able to move mountains. The word hypocrite basically means “actor.” Unfortunately, the scribes that Jesus dealt with were just actors in a drama designed to satisfy their own appetites at the expense of the very people in which they should have been investing their lives.
The scribes dressed to look the part. The long robes let everyone know they were VIP’s. They were also very big on titles and reverential salutations. The scribes made sure to sit in the best seats like present-day celebrities at a Knicks or Lakers game. Among their worst offenses was the way the scribes manipulated the court system and lined their own pockets with money syphoned from the poorest of the poor. They served as jurists and/or used their offices to purloin the property of poor widows. Finally, after having lived like calloused charlatans they iced the cake with long pretentious public prayers.
Jesus declared that a terrible judgment awaited them.
We must be careful that we do not look at the ever-present hypocrisy in this world and go too far to the other end of the spectrum. Wallowing blatantly and openly in sin with an “Aw shucks, God knows I’m a sinner” attitude is not an improvement on hypocrisy. In this life, we will not reach perfection, but we must be genuine.