And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44)
Many of you have met the scribes. Jesus describes them here and contrasts their phony, enslaving religion with the true religion of the poor widow. Notice that the Lord particularly despises these kind of religionists and pronounces them destined to the greater condemnation.
The scribes were experts on the Law of God in Israel. You can read about their self-glory seeking methods here and use those characteristics to identify them today. They used the Scriptures for self-gain and as they did so, they applied the Word of God in twisted manners which oppressed others.
Some scribes are really easy to identify. Church leaders who sit in raised thrones, who exalt themselves with elaborate and unique costumery, who sit by choice in places of honor especially in the church – these are the ones to watch for. However, some scribes are slicker at camouflage. In evangelical churches they don’t necessarily have all the pageantry and pomp of the more liturgical types (I’m not condemning all liturgy in worship by the way, just the abuse of it). But they nevertheless exalt themselves, putting themselves off as the only ones who really understand Scripture rightly, and inevitably their take on God’s Word oppresses people rather than setting them free.
I have no doubt that many of the church leaders and professing Christians of our day are scribes. Jesus warned us. They are out there. And He said beware of them. Their doctrines are the doctrine of men, not of God. We have all listened to them for too long. Be silent scribes! We are on to you.