Pride & Punishment (Mark 12:38-40)

Their religion is a parade of pride.

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  But pride is the root of the love of money.  Pride, is actually the root of all sin and all evil.  

PRIDE (38-40a)

Their religion is a costume, it’s Halloween everyday for them.  They dress up as religious, but, its not what they truly are.  Instead, their religion is a parade of pride.  They are insincere.  It’s not about God, its about themselves.  It’s not about exalting God in society, but, themselves.  They like going around in public all done up in their religious wardrobe so people recognize them.  Their religion “celebritizes” them so they get asked for autographs and selfies every time they go out in public.  Their religion is good for their social standing.  It gets them the best seats wherever they go.  It gets them admiration everywhere they go.  And that’s what they want.  And since that’s what religion gets them, they’re religious.

Pride is a cover-up.  Its a coverup for insecurities, fears, and weakness.  

Pride is a wet toothbrush.  One of the habits parents try to foster in their children is brushing their teeth.  “Did you brush your teeth?” we ask?  “Yeeeeees.  My toothbrush is wet!” one particular little dimpled boy says, flashing a big smile.   And what do parents say?  “C’mere and let me smell your breath?”  

There’s a difference between getting your toothbrush wet and actually brushing your teeth.  A wet toothbrush is pretending, but, fresh toothpast-ey breath is the evidence of the real thing.  Pride is a wet toothbrush.  

Pride’s Root In The Garden

It began in the garden right after the fall.  Once Adam & Eve sinned, their eyes were opened, they became aware of their nakedness, and it made them self-conscious.  What did they do?  They rushed to make clothing out of fig leaves to cover themselves up.  It was the first time humans felt embarrassed.  It was the first time they hid from each other.  Then it goes on to say they heard God calling them.  Now that they were self-conscious, they felt guilt and fear, it made them run into the trees to hide from God.  

Here’s the point:  sin has alienated us from each other and from God.  Pride is another form of fig leaves.  It covers up estrangement, fear, insecurity, weakness, guilt.  Religion can be a great wardrobe to cover up what is really on the inside.

The Rebukes of Proud Hypocrites

Perhaps this sheds light on Jesus’ rebukes of religious leaders a little more:

  • You white-washed tombs …clean on the outside, dirty on the inside.  
  • They worship God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him.  

Before Jesus, the Baptist would call them “venomous snakes” to their face.  After Jesus Peter would say, “these men are springs without water.”  Jude would say, “they are clouds without rain..autumn trees without fruit…wandering stars for whom blackest darkness are reserved.”

God does not like pride – at all.  He hated it in Satan and He hates it in us.  

  • Arrogance is a word that means “to show yourself above”.  (Wuest)How perfectly this describes us in our arrogance:  we think we are above everyone else; we think everyone else is beneath us.  We feel like we’re better than those around us because our self-esteem is built on top of the condescending criticism we level at others.  “All your pomp has been brought down” God said to Satan (Isa. 14:11). “Your heart became proud” He said again in Ezekiel 28:17, “…so I threw you to the earth.”  Jesus promised, “A man who exalts himself will be humbled; but, a man who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11).
  • Pride says I have to be first, the best, the most important, the most noticed and the most admired. 
  • Pride makes us think we don’t have any faults.  Pride makes us think the plank in our eye is only a little sliver while simultaneously thinking the sliver in someone else’s eye is a giant plank.  Pride exaggerates our own strengths while minimizing the strengths of others.  It makes us exaggerate the weaknesses of others, while minimizing our own weaknesses.
  • Pride makes us sit comfortably on our moral throne.
  • Application:  Do we think highly of ourselves because we think lowly of others?  Do we think that we’re not sinners, or bad sinners because we always see everyone else as worse than us?  There’s a reason it’s called “Looking down” on people.  It’s because we think we’re higher than them, better than them, looking down at them in their pitifulness while we sit high atop our moral stallion.  If our self-esteem is built upon the condescending criticism of others we have a Pharisee’s kind of pride.  We need to humble ourselves and confess such an attitude as sin.

Contrast the teachers of the Law with Jesus.  He was true, they were false.  He was faithful, they were faithless.  They were proud, He was humble.  He was lowly, they were high and looked down.  They served themselves, He served His Father.  They were wicked, He was righteous. 


Jesus says it so matter of factly:  such men will be punished most severely.  Four things.  

FIRST, the reality of punishment.  In a messed up world the Bible offers the most meaningful comfort anywhere available.  But in the midst of our comforts it offers the most frightening warnings as well.  God provides for us a powerful mixture of tenderness and severity.  We should not ignore the severe parts.  The perspective of the Apostles and Prophets in Scripture is that God has a Day when punishment will be brought upon all evil:

  • It is called “the Great Day” in Jude 6.  
  • “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:3).  
  • Then verse 9, “The Lord knows … how to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment”
  • Then “The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7)
  • “But I tell you men will have to give an account on the day of judgment” (Mt. 12:36)
  • “For God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed” (Acts 17:31)
  • It is appointed for man to die once, and then face judgment” Hebrews 9:27 says.  

Do we live with the reality of God’s coming Judgment?  “It is a terrible thing Hebrews 10 warns us, “to fall into the hands of the living God.”  

Can you live with the idea that wrongs done in this world, and perhaps done to you, may not be made right until the Day of Judgment?  That is hard to think about.  There is the saying that “Delayed justice is denied justice”.  But in accepting this teaching this is where both faith and patience apply, biblically speaking.  Faith that the day will happen as God says it will, and, patience to wait for it.  Faith enables patience, and I don’t say that lightly.

In the 73rd Psalm Asaph expressed his distress and his epiphany.  He was distressed over the success of the wicked saying, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  

However, after spending the first half describing the ease and success of the wicked, he had an epiphany.  He realized their destiny.  He realized how foolish he had been thinking only about their thriving here and now and not considering their coming destruction on the day of Judgment.  He says, “Then I entered the sanctuary of God and I understood their final destiny”.  

What Asaph is saying is that once he set his eyes on God he began to see clearly.  His perspective was corrected.  He saw the Holy God who has planned a Day when all arrogant and evil men will be brought to ruin.  Then Asaph didn’t envy them so much anymore.  Seeing God is how you see things rightly.    

SECONDLY, there are degrees of punishment.  Just as there will be degrees of reward in heaven, there will be degrees of punishment in hell:  “Such men will be punished most severely”…. Implying there will be others who won’t have it as bad.  Among those who will have it bad, but, not as bad as others is Sodom and Gommora.  Although the poster-cities of evil and immorality, nonetheless these twin-cities will have it easier on the day of Judgment than other cities – “It will be more bearable on the day of judgment.  “I tell you” Jesus said, “it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Mt. 10:15)

What will determine the degree of punishment?  What factors into God’s decision about how much or how little a person will suffer?  The Bible gives us some answers.  I’ll cover three:  how much someone has sinned; how serious were their sins; knowledge.  

First is the amount of sin.  A life that is “full” of sin will be punished more than a life that was not.  “In this way they heap up their sins to the limit” (1 Thess. 2:16).  “Fill up the measure of the sins of your forefathers, then!” (Mt. 23:32).  This includes hidden and forgotten sins.  We may think we’ve buried them and no one knows, but, God has books and keeps accurate records.  

There is a verse that can make you go pale in 1 Timothy 5:24, “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind.”  The thought, as i see it, is that some people’s sins are public, notorious, well-known.  Their reputation gets there ahead of them so to speak.  But other people get to Judgment ahead of their sins, you might say, with their “sins “trailing behind them”…. This is the picture of people who had long forgotten about their sins in the past, or, successfully hid them away from others.  It’s almost like when they arrive God points behind them and when they turn around they see those sins arriving too.  I can only imagine how that must feel.

Second is how serious the sins were.  All sin is sin, and, you don’t want stand before God with even just one.  That’s why you need to get to Jesus now before you get to the Judgment Throne.  But, while sin is sin, we must realize not all sin is the same.  For instance, the Apostle John tells us that there is sin that “does not lead to death.  There is a sin that leads to death…and there is sin that does not lead to death.”  Some sins lead to death, others don’t.  

The OT Law listed all sorts of sins and varying degrees of punishment.  The degree of punishment would correspond with the degree of the sin.  Some sins were punishable by death:  blasphemy, rape, adultery, etc.  Other sins required a fine, a sacrifice, financial restitution and so on.  Justice is the idea that someone’s crime needs a matching punishment.  Stoning is not appropriate for someone riding their donkey too fast in a residential neighborhood, and, a small fine is not appropriate for someone guilty of rape.  

Third is knowledge.  You are responsible to act on the knowledge that you do have.  It is the idea that the more knowledge you have the more responsible you are for how you act on that knowledge.  

  • This is why teachers will have a stricter judgment, as james says “Let us all not strive to be teachers because we who teach will be judged more severely (Js. 3:1).  
  • It’s also the basis for “Many blows vs few blows” (Lk. 12:47-8).  
  • Blackest darkness reserved for them (2 Pt. 2:17; Jude 13);
  • Another criteria is consistency with our conscience (Rom. 2:13-15); 

THIRDLY, don’t be led into punishment.  His point, as He looks at the crowd, is that if you follow their ways you will follow them into the same punishment that awaits them.  Choose carefully who you follow.  They’re leading you somewhere. 

ILLUSTRATION:  Let’s not be a dumb cricket.  The other day I was in the church kitchen and a cricket was on the ground.  I thought it was dead because it didn’t scoot when I came near it.  I nudged it with my foot to check and it moved a little.  BUt it didn’t run.  I thought, “This is not a very smart cricket.  He’s going to get stepped on sitting out in the open like this.  I hope he’s not reproducing because the cricket species sure doesn’t want his DNA getting passed on.”

Don’t be a dumb cricket.  God’s judgment is coming and we don’t want to get stepped on when it comes.  Get out of the way.  “Where can I go?” someone might ask.  Jesus.  Flee to Jesus to escape the wrath of God.  

CONCLUSION:  TakeAways (Silent Reflection)

How sincere is your religion?  Is it all an outward show?  Or is it coming out from your heart?

Is your life shaped by the reality that God’s Judgment is coming?  Have you escaped by coming to Jesus for salvation?

What are you doing with what you know about Jesus?

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