The False Appearance of Godliness Has Typical Identifiers (Part 18)

Mark 12:38-40 ESV  And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces  (39)  and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,  (40)  who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”


While wolves in wool certainly can be quite skilled at their disguises and deceptive tactics, there are identifiers that just keep coming up over and over again. We would be wise to take note of them. You see it in Jesus’ words above:

  • Craving attention and celebrity status
  • Being addressed with titles that set them above others
  • Elevated places of honor
  • Love of money at the expense of others
  • Use of “holy-talk” to impress the adoring masses

If you would spend some time reading up on the various “Christian” organizations whose notable leaders have been busted for child molesting, embezzlement, sexual immorality, and other notoriously wicked sins, you will find a pattern. It is largely the same pattern Jesus is warning us of in this Scripture…beware! Beware of the scribes… And He described them for us.

Alright, so just how do we “beware”? Look for the signs. Whenever, and I mean, whenever! Whenever you see some preacher or theologian or evangelist who is characterized by these things and treated this way by the adoring followers, beware! You can count on it – they are a fake. They have an appearance of godliness but what they really are is servants of the devil.

The thing can sneak up on you. The pattern develops over time. But eventually there is fame and fortune. Finances that are inappropriate in size and use. Notoriety that is inappropriate. A friend of mine recently told me that he was at a conference once and was disheartened to see, just before a well-known Bible teacher and pastor was about to speak at a session, a number of young men scurrying to get front row seats, all the while remarking “Pastor _______” is about to speak!” Contrast that with Scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  (2)  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  (3)  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  (4)  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  (5)  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.


We have all seen this often enough that it is past time for us to really see it for what it is. The Lord Jesus did not evidence these kinds of things. And I, for myself, am done with it all. I am finished with the big name celebrity conferences, done with oohing and ahhing at the videos these groups put out boasting about what tremendous things they are doing on the mission field (google Voice of the Martyrs scandal and read up on what has been going on there for years).

We will be called judgmental and unkind for doing this, but I ask you – if a person or organization evidences the qualities Jesus exposed in the scribes and told us to beware – how is it wrong to obey our Lord by being done with them?

2 thoughts on “The False Appearance of Godliness Has Typical Identifiers (Part 18)

  1. Hi – I have a couple of VOM’s Richard Wurmbrand’s books, which I really liked and found him to be a godly man; however I remember thinking there were a few examples he gave of other people that seemed, to me as a reader, that those people were deliberately seeking out persecution for the sake of saying they are persecuted in God’s name. Sometimes I felt like my mother would do that too

    1. lg – Yes, I know what you mean. I think Richard was honest, though I obviously didn’t know him personally, and it is his son Michael who is calling VOM out for the corruption (they fired him). But you definitely make a good point – there is a thread there of encouraging people to seek out persecution. I understand that in the early church some Christians had to be rebuked for seeking out martyrdom. Same kind of thing.

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