How Can Religion Lead to Death?

T J Morelli
Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 | Matthew 23:29-36

Getting Started

What would it take for you to boldly call someone a hypocrite? It is a strong word with deep implications. Up to this point in Matthew 23, we have read six warnings to the religious elite of Jesus’ day. Today we read the final warning on religious hypocrisy. There was nothing Jesus attacked more directly than man-made religion.

  • Why do you believe Jesus was so bold in attacking hypocrisy head-on? 

Read the Word

Matthew 23:29-36 (ESV)

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Digging Deeper

  1. Take a moment to re-read verses 29-34. What were the terms Jesus used to describe the scribes and Pharisees?
  2. Man-made religion is hypocritical—pretending to walk with God, but living life completely separate from his leading. How was this definition being lived out by the scribes and Pharisees?
  3. What were the consequences promised to those who used religion as a tool to control and manipulate (vss. 35a, 36)?
  4. In what ways do we still see religious manipulation occurring today? How can we guard against this in our own lives?

Respond to God

As we have seen over the last seven days of study with Time with God, Jesus confronted religious hypocrisy boldly and clearly. The Jewish leaders were leading many astray with their false teaching and their self-righteous acts. As Christ-followers it is very easy to point fingers at these Jewish leaders, missing the fact that our flesh can easily lead us to decisions where we pretend to walk with God. As pastor and author Tim Keller once said, “Religious people will find him useful, but gospel people will find him beautiful.”

  • Spend time praying that God would reveal to you where you are living life on your own terms.
  • Ask him to squash your religious tendencies, replacing these leanings with the freedom found only in the gospel!