Six Woes

Luke 11:42-52 

1. Lk 11:42 NAB "Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others."

The love of God is a fundamental commandment in both the old and New Testaments. Deuteronomy 6:5 "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." See Matthew 22:37.

A tithe is a one tenth part (10%) owed to God and paid to his ministers. (See Lev. 27:30 and Deut. 14:22.) Therefore, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of being more concerned with money than with justice or God's love. In doing this he is echoing the concern of the prophets before him. (See Hosea 12:6; and see Prov. 29:7; Ps 140:12; Is. 1:17; Is 42:1-4; Ezek. 22:29, Micah 3:8-9,11-12.)

Isaiah 10:1-3 NIV "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?"

Is. 59:15 "Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey."

The Pharisees were of course very familiar with these passages and so Jesus is implying that they apply to them and as a result others apply to him.

Is 59:20-21. ""The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD . "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD . "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD."

2. Lk 11:43 "Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces." Pride, vanity and ambition are nothing new but Jesus clearly condemns those who seek these imperfections. Ps 10:4 NIV "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." See Prov. 8:13; 11:2; 16:18; 29:23.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

3. Lk 11:44 "Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk." See footnote 11 in the NAB. Obviously, Jesus is saying they are dead inside, spiritually dead, but perhaps also emotionally dead. If so, they would be lacking in compassion and mercy. They would have no empathy, no feeling for others.

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another." Zechariah 7:9. NIV.

4. Luke 11:45-46. "Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, "Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too." And he said, "Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them." NAB. [A scholar of the law is an expert in the Law of Moses, the Jewish law and its interpretation.]

Jesus is here suggesting that these scholars are enslaving people. A slave owner buys someone, treats him thereafter as property, merely a machine, who does what he is told no matter how onerous or difficult. The slave owner doesn't want to do hard manual labor himself so he buys someone to do it and does not ever help. Thus he "imposes on people burdens hard to carry" but does "not lift one finder to touch" the burdens. This is a harsh accusation and I am sure they would find it insulting. That response, feeling insult, is much easier than self examination and reform.

5. Lk 11:47-48 "Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building." NAB. Although the last murdered prophet in the Old Testament is given as Zechariah, Jesus may be saying that the present generation murdered the message of the prophets even though they build memorials to them. The only really effective memorial is to listen to their message and adopt it into life. By his statement, which includes apostles, he is prophesying the murder of the apostles and himself.

6. Luke 11:52 "Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."

The phraise "Key of knowledge" is not defined but it could easily mean that they have made the knowledge obscure and unattainable to the average person and therefore deprived them of it. This is in contrast to the Proverbs of Solomon which are "for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young..." Prov. 1:2-4.

Contrast the New Testament teaching in which the "key" is Christ. I Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3.