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23 Then Jesus said to the crowds, and to his disciples, “You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws![a] And of course you should obey their every whim! It may be all right to do what they say, but above anything else, don’t follow their example. For they don’t do what they tell you to do. They load you with impossible demands that they themselves don’t even try to keep.

“Everything they do is done for show. They act holy[b] by wearing on their arms little prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside,* and by lengthening the memorial fringes of their robes. And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the reserved pews in the synagogue! How they enjoy the deference paid them on the streets and to be called ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Master’! Don’t ever let anyone call you that. For only God is your Rabbi and all of you are on the same level, as brothers. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven should be addressed like that. 10 And don’t be called ‘Master,’ for only one is your master, even the Messiah.

11 “The more lowly your service to others, the greater you are. To be the greatest, be a servant. 12 But those who think themselves great shall be disappointed and humbled; and those who humble themselves shall be exalted.

13-14 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven and won’t go in yourselves. And you pretend to be holy, with all your long, public prayers in the streets, while you are evicting widows from their homes. Hypocrites! 15 Yes, woe upon you hypocrites. For you go to all lengths to make one convert, and then turn him into twice the son of hell you are yourselves. 16 Blind guides! Woe upon you! For your rule is that to swear ‘By God’s Temple’ means nothing—you can break that oath, but to swear ‘By the gold in the Temple’ is binding! 17 Blind fools! Which is greater, the gold, or the Temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And you say that to take an oath ‘By the altar’ can be broken, but to swear ‘By the gifts on the altar’ is binding! 19 Blind! For which is greater, the gift on the altar, or the altar itself that sanctifies the gift? 20 When you swear ‘By the altar,’ you are swearing by it and everything on it, 21 and when you swear ‘By the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘By heavens,’ you are swearing by the Throne of God and by God himself.

23 “Yes, woe upon you, Pharisees, and you other religious leaders—hypocrites! For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, but ignore the important things—justice and mercy and faith. Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn’t leave the more important things undone. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders—hypocrites! You are so careful to polish the outside of the cup, but the inside is foul with extortion and greed. 26 Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the inside of the cup, and then the whole cup will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums—full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption. 28 You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin.

29-30 “Yes, woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders—hypocrites! For you build monuments to the prophets killed by your fathers and lay flowers on the graves of the godly men they destroyed, and say, ‘We certainly would never have acted as our fathers did.’

31 “In saying that, you are accusing yourselves of being the sons of wicked men. 32 And you are following in their steps, filling up the full measure of their evil. 33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How shall you escape the judgment of hell?

34 “I will send you prophets, and wise men, and inspired writers, and you will kill some by crucifixion, and rip open the backs of others with whips in your synagogues, and hound them from city to city, 35 so that you will become guilty of all the blood of murdered godly men from righteous Abel to Zechariah (son of Barachiah), slain by you in the Temple between the altar and the sanctuary. 36 Yes, all the accumulated judgment of the centuries shall break upon the heads of this very generation.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones all those God sends to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. 38 And now your house is left to you, desolate. 39 For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you are ready to welcome the one sent to you from God.”[c]


  1. Matthew 23:2 keep making up so many laws, literally, “sit on Moses’ seat.”
  2. Matthew 23:5 act holy, implied. wearing . . . little prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, literally, “enlarging their phylacteries.”
  3. Matthew 23:39 from God, literally, “in the name of the Lord.”

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