Grades of punishment….I don’t normally think about eternity having grades of punishment. Separation from God and eternal torment for eternity seems pretty severe no matter how you slice it. Still the closing verses of this chapter seem to indicate a greater punishment for some.
While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely” (45-47).
Teachers of the law tend to get a pretty strong hit from Jesus. The use of religion for personal gain or personal honor appears to be part of the root of Jesus’ concern. These religious men want honor and respect and yet they are taking advantage of people. They are show without substance. They are hypocrites. According to Jesus they will be punished most severely.
That is a frightening thought for me on many levels. The obvious level is that there are grades of punishment in eternity… severe and most severe!
But what gets me at a deeper level is that I am a teacher of religion and if I don’t watch myself the fate of the teachers of the law could be my fate. Even James, Jesus’ brother, writes, Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).
These texts shout to me, “Bill, examine your teaching and your life. Is all of you surrendered to Me? Are you teaching and living with integrity and care for My family?”
Lord, Your call to personal examination is frightening in light of these words of Yours. Punishment at Your hand is unfathomable, but to be punished most severely… I have no words.
Examine me and know me, cleanse me at the deepest places that I might not sin against You and I might serve and help Your people. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.