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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JEWISH HYPOCRITES

Luke 11:41-44 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees, for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are as graves, which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Previous to the lesson text, Jesus had admonished the scribes and Pharisees for placing their religious devotional rites only to the things that could be seen with the eye of man. In doing so, they completely ignored the inward cleanness of the soul that could only be seen by God. It is well known that this ruling class of the Jewish people demonstrated their piousness by wearing clothing decorated with religious items and quotations in order to be seen by others. This class of Jews was significantly wealthier than most others. And, as it is also well known in Jewish history, much of their gain was obtained unjustly at the expense of others. Jesus, recognizing this fact, gave them this course of action that would help them change their attitude toward outward demonstration of "righteousness," and cleanse their calloused inward minds and hearts of unrighteousness. He told them to give alms of such things as ye have. A complete change in their conduct of life was necessary. Instead of amassing fortunes for themselves, they should, being guided with brotherly love and humility, give unselfishly to those in need. And in doing so, Jesus told them it would be taking a step toward eliminating a hypocritical lifestyle - it would begin a cleansing process to rid their hearts and minds of all manner of evil, wicked thoughts, and actions.

Continuing His scathing charge against them, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of another sinful practice: for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God. This is very similar to Jesus' admonition to the scribes and Pharisees recorded in Matthew 23:23, which reads: for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. Mosaic law required a tenth part of all property owned by a Jewish family to be given to support the tribe of Levi, who were separated by God and made responsible for conducting and overseeing all religious services for the Jewish people. Another tenth part, either by giving sacrificial animals or the equivalent in money, was to be used for temple maintenance and the things necessary for worship services. Then, every third year, an additional tenth was to be given to relieve the needs of the poor and destitute. Considering these tithing obligations, approximately twenty-five percent of that which was owned by each Jewish family was to be given away.

Not only were these tithes required, but also the Jews were to contribute various spices and all manner of herbs. These were to be used to add pleasant fragrances and aromatic aromas to their homes, business places, and, especially, to the synagogues of worship. Although the amount of these herbs and spices to be given is not stated in Old Testament law, the Pharisees maintained, as these passages indicate, that they must be tithed also. The giving of these herbs, that supply good aromas, although required by Jewish law, were considered to be small matters when compared to the complete religious ceremonies that direct the spiritual lives of all Jews. The scribes and Pharisees seemed to place the most religious emphasis on these small matters and give less significance on the weightier matters Jewish law. That is, they passed over judgment and the love of God - those things that are essential in demonstrating one's love for God and for their fellow man.

Jesus cites a characteristic these scribes and Pharisees demonstrated in their self-centered lives. He rightly accused them of selecting the uppermost seats in the synagogues, as well as the most noticeable places to sit and greet people in the markets. Indeed, they wanted to be seen of others and praised for their outward acts of "righteousness." Jesus condemns them for their hypocritical spiritual pretenses saying they were like graves, which appear not. That is, they were not noticed to be like graves, and therefore could not be avoided by men that walk over them. To touch a grave caused ceremonial pollution according to Jewish law, meaning that these sinful leaders, disguised as pure, caused their fellow Jews to lead corruptible lives.