Like most people, the crowds following Jesus loved some invective! In this short passage Jesus makes a series of charges against the scribes, who formed part of the ruling Jewish religious leaders' group.
1. They liked to walk about in their flowing robes, preening themselves like peacocks. These long robes were signs that they were people to be looked up to. In this attire they could neither hurry nor work. The way they dressed drew attention to them and to the honour they enjoyed.
2. They liked to be greeted in the market place. The title, 'Rabbi' means 'My great one' and this kind of thing made them feel even more pleased with themselves!
3. They liked to take the front seats in the synagogue. There they would be in full view of the admiring congregation.
4. They preferred the highest places at feasts. The best place at table was on the right side of the host and they would head for that seat.
5. They devoured widows' houses. The other points could be perceived as unpleasant, but harmless. An expert in religious Law could take no pay for his teaching and he was supposed to have a trade-Paul the apostle had a trade as a tent maker-but they had managed to convey to their acolytes that there could be no higher duty than to support your Rabbi financially.
6. They loved to recite long prayers aloud and in the busiest places. These prayers were said to other people rather than God.
Jesus warns against three things:
1. He warns against the desire for prominence. Even today within the Church we can identify those who seen themselves as being in a place of privilege and honour rather than servitude.
2. He warns against deferring to those who are dressed in finery, just because of their costume rather than for their character.
3. He warns against using religion to further one's own ambitions. It is still possible to use religious connections for self-advancement or personal gain.
We should approach our commitment to Church as for what we can put into it. Far too many approach it to see what they can get out of it.