Jesus fought the Pharisees and Lawyers 2000 years ago, and they’re back with a vengeance! But their games are not new.
Stealing widow’s houses, while making a pretense of long prayers. Tithing down to the last penny, while railroading people through fake trials with fake witnesses. Oppressive labor practices. Allowing the poor to drop dead in the streets, while gourging themselves on the fruit of their labor. Not all of these practices are still being seen today. But too many still are.
Preying on Helpless Widows
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, a favorite “trick” of the Pharisees was to line their pockets with money from poor widows. They did this every chance they got!
Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. Luke 20:46-47.
As stated above, it seems to have been a common practice for the rich Pharisees to go after and take whatever a widow had on her, including her home! Naturally, without shelter, this was easily a life or death situation! And getting justice during those days, was a major challenge. Here’s what happened when a judge at that time was confronted by one of their victims.
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. Luke 18:3-5.
Jesus used this illustration to show that while earthly judges were unjust by nature, that justice could be obtained through persistence. Nevertheless, God was not such a hesitant judge. And through persistent prayer, that justice could be obtained more speedily! Even for widows!
Easing the Plight of Widows
Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. Luke 7:12-15.
Notice that the scripture says, “…he had compassion on her…”. It DIDN’T SAY, He had compassion on him (her son)! Jesus’ compassion was directed at the widow! Why? Because He KNEW that with her son dead, the vulture Pharisees would soon come and take her house away! And he didn’t want to see that happen!
Now, in case you believe these were isolated cases, let’s see if you have EVER heard the following passage highlighted in a sermon:
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1.
Screech! Stope the presses! What was that about?
The horrific treatment of widows was not lost on the disciples! Nor was Jesus’ very apparent affection for their plight. The disciples established a special distribution of food to ensure that the needs of the widows were taken care of. On a DAILY basis!
Pass the Collection Plate, Rob The Family!
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:4-6.
What this passage is saying is, Son, if you don’t want to have to take care of your ailing father and mother, no problem! Just prepare a bribe son, cast it into the treasury, and then watch them die in the streets! We’ll absolve you of anything that happens to them! Yes, that might be hard to believe. But that is what that means! And that is what they were doing!
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Mark 12:43.
There has been a lot of debate over the above passage. Through prosperity preachers say that Jesus was commending the widow for giving so much of herself to the church! However, that does not appear to be the case at all. It was rather an illustration of the church draining the widows down to the last penny! If you have a problem seeing this, you are not alone. We have been conditioned to view the scriptures in a way as to glorify and vindicate the rich. However, a lot of things come to light when you take off your “rich man’s” glasses, and see through the eyes of this poor widow!
God Was Not Blind To Their Sin
The book of Malachi takes on a completely different flavor when you take off traditional glasses and interpretations, and read the text plainly as it was written. There is plainly spoken in that book a condemnation of the rich, and an admonishment of the rich to treat them fairly. Otherwise, judgement was coming!
And I will come near to you to judgment;
and I will be a swift witness
against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers,
and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages,
the widow, and the fatherless,
and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me,
saith the Lord of hosts.
The Lawyers and Pharisees of that day had a good racket going. They teamed up to oppress the workers and craftsmen, the widows and the orphans, and the foreign workers who dwelled in the land, and God was angry about it! Keep in mind of course that these were the leaders of the church! And this was hardly their first warning!
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
to undo the heavy burdens,
and to let the oppressed go free,
and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
But despite these warnings, they just kept acting like the spiritual leaders they were, while at the same time oppressing their laborers, stealing from the widows and orphans, and letting people literally starve to death, all while they kept having their fancy banquets with their fancy friends.
Sons of the Devil
Jesus referred to the Pharisees as vipers! And no wonder, they preyed on people, and left them dead in the streets!
Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Matthew 23:31-33.
Jesus knew that the Pharisees were of their father the Devil. So, by their very nature, they would steal, kill, and destroy. He chastised them because they had slain the prophets before them.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10.
Modern Day Widow Robbing
These days, the church seems to have forgotten Acts Chapter 6, and their strong obligation to take daily care of widows and orphans. Rather, they continue to ply widows to tithe on “the gross” from their limited Social Security and pension funds, give liberally to building funds, and otherwise empty their pockets into the collection plate. Never mind that the church that Jesus left in place actually gave them money!
But the real artistry is the creative way they have of going after the estates of widows. Some “Christian” organizations have whole Divisions that are dedicated to going after that money! After all, we wouldn’t want their children to actually inherit any of their parent’s money, now would we?
My Personal Story with Modern Day Pharisees
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I have had too much experience of predatory preachers, sons of the Pharisees preying on my family. My mother-in-law’s entire estate was taken by such a crooked preacher! He got to her at a weak moment while she was sick, and took everything she had to leave to the family. Even my father’s clothes were taken!
But you say that was an isolated case, maybe.
Another preacher went to my cousin’s bedside, and had him sign paperwork to take away all of his father’s possessions! He told the neighbors that my uncle’s house was now his. He even took over my uncle’s health care, and began making arrangement to have him rot in a horror factory of a nursing home! I had to go to court to wrest control of everything away from him. Thankfully, we were able to oust this modern Pharisee and save my uncle’s house and life’s savings!
More Modern Day Robbers
There seems no need to recount stories here of Mega Church Pastors and Bishops with multi-million dollar homes, fleets of luxury automobiles, private jets, etc. All of those cases are well documented these days.
What is less well documented are cases where people have lost their homes, done without important prescriptions, and otherwise had to make painful financial decisions, all to feed this greedy machine.
In a day and age where the predators seem to be everywhere, from the college loan crisis, to the mortgage crisis, to high credit card rates, to “pay day lenders”, the church ought to be a voice for relief of these burdens. Rather, too many churches have become the CAUSE of people’s sufferings. And Jesus didn’t die for a Pastor or Bishop to have a fleet of luxury cars!
A Deafening Silence On The Poor and Oppressed
During the last several years we have seen “Black Lives Matter”, we have seen “The Occupy Movement”, and we have seen a number of related Civil Rights oriented movements rise and fall. However, what we have not seen is much involvement by the church. Rather, most large churches seem to be caught up in preaching financial independence, autonomy, and how to live out your dreams and ambitions. When Rev. Martin Luther King was so engaged and vocal on Civil Rights during the 1960s, why such a defining silence today?
The silence is caused by a finger the government has on the mute button of the church. Pastors and churches know that if they speak out on these “political” issues, they might lose their tax advantages. That fear has increased in recent years, and has effectively neutered the church.
God threatened the Pharisees with severe judgement because they were exploiting the poor, widows, orphans, and the laboring class. Since God does not change, there is no reason to believe that His opinions on this situation have changed either.