Blind leading the Blind

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ “You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?” Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. “And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.” And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” Matthew 23:16-22

Jesus had been previously titling the scribes and Pharisees Hypocrites but now in this exchange He gives them a new title, Blind Guides. Paul in his letter to the Romans said this, “And are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness.” (Romans 2:19) His statement here was addressed to the Jews and Paul was reminding them that they were the chosen people by God. Their purpose was to lead the spiritually blind into the light of God’s truth. Here in this verse Jesus is calling the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, blind guides. They themselves were to be the guides to the people yet they are the one that are blind to the truth.

We are entering a new topic but it is related to our discussion of last week in that here again the scribes and Pharisees are accused once again of teaching a false doctrine. And again because of their influence among the people they were leading many astray. Their teaching here is that, “Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing.” The meaning here is that whoever swore by the Temple were under no obligation to fulfill their commitment. The Scribes and Pharisees did not view it as a binding oath. Then they taught that, “Whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.” That is to teach that if they made a commitment to the treasury of that which was kept at the Temple and it was a binding obligation. If they failed to keep this oath then they were in debt to the treasury of the Temple. But they accepted the oaths placed upon the corban.

When Jesus delivered the Sermon of the Mount He addressed the practice of making oaths. We read, “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Corban defined is an offering. Corban was the offering that the Jews were to make to the Tabernacle and then the Temple for sacrifices and support of the Priest. Corban was also monetary gifts for the financial support of the Temple. Jesus also confronted the scribes and Pharisees on their practice of misuse of the Corban. “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother.” (Mark 78-12) The problem was that the scribes and Pharisees were taking the offering, the Corban, and enriching themselves instead of using it for the purposes that is was given by the people. The Corban was given for the purpose of caring for the fathers and mothers in their elderly age.

It was the monetary gifts and value of the creature gifts that the scribes and Pharisees were interested in. Not for the work of the ministry but for the lining of their own pockets. The point then was that if a man swore by the Temple and failed there was no profit to the scribes and Pharisees. But if that man swore by the treasury then there was profit as he would have to make payment. This is why they enforced his oath because there was money to be had. The falsehood is in that they reversed the proper teaching of the Word of God in order to profit themselves and not to honor God.

Jesus then answers to their false teaching so that they may hear the truth and reveal their lies to the crowds that were gathered around. “The temple that sanctified the gold.” It was the Temple that sanctified the gold. To sanctify is to make holy. Holy means set a part. God is Holy because He is set apart from His creation. What is given to the Temple, or the Church in our case, is sanctified by the Lord who is the head of the Church. The Corban was made holy by the Lord of the Temple or Church. Whatever the Corban was it was no different than its equal outside of the Church until it was made holy by God.

The scribes and Pharisees had said swearing by the altar meant nothing but swearing by the sacrifice was binding. For the same purpose that there was profit to be made from the animal sacrifices. Yet Jesus told them that is was the altar that sanctified the sacrifice by the power of God.

“Him who dwells within it.” The Temple was the dwelling place of God. The Temple was His house, His dwelling. In the first, or Solomon’s temple, He dwelt between the cherubim’s in the most holy place. He manifested himself there by a visible symbol, in the form of a cloud resting on the mercy-seat. (1 Kings 8:10, 1 Kings 8:13; Psalm 80:1)

It was not the money or the sacrifices that were of value but that God would make it holy unto Himself. God set the Corban apart from what was common, God sanctified the Corban, not the Corban itself. It is the same with us. we cannot make ourselves holy, we cannot work or earn our way into the presence of God, it is God that makes us holy, it is the work of His Spirit that sanctifies us.

Those who must swear or make an oath and do so by meaningless things that have no spiritual value then are making an oath by the things that shall pass away. If by what a man swears by is passing away then also his vow shall pass away so both the oath and the object by which he has fixed it upon is meaningless and has no value. But if a man makes an oath by God, or His throne, or by His sanctuary then He is asking God to make it holy by His name. One should be careful when doing something such as making an oath in the name of the Lord.

So many times I have heard people say, “Swear to God” or “By God.” I am sure they do not know the danger they have brought into their life. Solomon wrote, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6) If you make a promise to God consider carefully that you can make good on the promise. Every word that a person speaks in this world he shall be held accountable to God for. (Romans 3:19) It is better to follow the advice of Jesus in Matthew and as His half-brother James wrote, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” (James 5:12) When a person uses the name of God he is in effect saying that God will back His words. This is the same twist of truth as the scribes and Pharisees. If we fail to make good on our promise we have made a liar of God.

The scribes and Pharisees were teaching the people to make an oath on the physical things of the Temple and not on the deity that sanctified those things. They should have known better because of their educated position of being well versed in the Scriptures that they were stealing God’s honor. They also were teaching the people to make an oath on the things that they could personally enrich their lives on. Offerings that were given to God. They were not only Hypocrites, not only twisting the truth, not only leading the people to judgment, not only robbing God, but were the blind leading the blind.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, August 24, 2014

Durant Bible College

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