“Anybody can become angry, that is easy,” observed the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “but to be angry at the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way–that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Often called “righteous indignation,” Jesus is the perfect example of channeling his anger against sin, especially religious folks who were guilty of hypocrisy and hurting others.
Matthew 23 reveals what A. T. Roberson called “the rolling thunder of Christ’s wrath,” in his severe denunciation of the Scribes and the Pharisees.
Or as Plummer put it, these woes are “like thunder in their unanswerable severity, and like lightning in their unsparing exposure…They illuminate while they strike.” Eight times he pronounces a “woe” upon these religious pretenders.
Warren Wiersbe makes an interesting observation of how these eight “woes” are in contrast to the eight beatitudes of blessedness found in Matt 5:1-12. It is a contrast between “true righteousness” and “false righteousness.”
Entering the kingdom vs shutting up the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; 23:13). “The poor in spirit enter the kingdom, but the proud in spirit keep themselves out and even keep others out.”
Mourners and comforters vs destroyers condemned (Matt 5:4; 23:14). “Instead of mourning over their own sins, and mourning with needy widows, the Pharisees took advantage of people in order to rob them. They used their religion as a “cloak of covetousness” (1 Thess 2:5).
Meek inheriting the earth vs the proud who send souls to hell (Matt 5:5; 23:15). Pharisees were more interested in their legalistic system than God’s law. Instead of saving souls, they were condemning them.
Hungering for holiness vs greedy for gain (Matt 5:6; 23:16-22). These “blind guides” were oblivious to spiritual values and righteous priorities. Their appetite was carnal and materialistic.
Obtaining mercy vs. rejecting mercy (Matt 5:7; 23:23-24). These legalists “majored on minors. They had rules for every minute area of life, while at the same time they forgot about the important things.”
Pure in heart vs defiled in heart (Matt 5:8; 2325-28). Jesus’ analogy of the cup and platter, and the sepulcher uncovered the same ugly truth. They appeared clean on the outside but were defiled on the inside.
Peacemakers and persecuted are God’s children vs persecutors who are the devil’s children (Matt 5:9-12: 23:29-33). Jesus called them “serpents .. generation of vipers,” identifying them with the old serpent (Gen 3:). Like Satan, they were murderers and liars.
Jesus condemnation serves as a warning to all Christians. Focus on the internal, not the external. Take off your religious mask. Be real. Don’t pretend.
Measure your spirituality in terms of character and conviction, not artificial piety and religious traditions.
Put off pride, prejudice, and partiality. And put on kindness, humility, and meekness.
Seek sacrificial service instead of selfish ambition. Serve God’s purpose instead of your personal agenda.
Exalt truth instead of tradition. Be loyal to Jesus Christ instead of Church custom.
Take 5 minutes to read Matthew 23. Feel the righteous anger of Jesus but delivered with a broken heart for people who had lost their way and forgotten God. Then reflectively and honestly examine your own heart and ask, “Lord, is it I?”
Finally, let us be advised as one writer reminds us, “To exhibit God’s righteous anger, you must be angry at sin wherever you find it—especially in yourself.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman