Matthew 23:11-15

Mat 23:11 (KJB)
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Jesus contrasts that in the Kingdom of God, the greatest is not the one who rules but the one who is the servant. The Pharisees saw themselves as rulers who were exempt from doing any menial tasks. When one makes themselves a servant, it checks the lust for power and prestige. Servants normally know more about a business than those who run them. There is a TV show called “Undercover Boss” where the CEO or the President goes undercover in their own business and work with the employees on the lower rung of the employment ladder. What really is obvious is that almost every CEO is totally oblivious of the tasks which their people do which keep their companies in business. Some of these CEO’s can’t even make a decent sandwich, they can’t string a wire, they can’t cut a piece of wood with a saw, or they refuse to do jobs which are too dirty for them. The line of employees that keep every company in business are those who meet the customers head on because without their knowledge of the products, the customers would look elsewhere. This shows you that those in the lower echelons are extremely valuable and never to be looked down upon. It shows you that they are the greatest in every company because without them, there is no company and no upper management.

Mat 23:12 (KJB)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Exalt, Exalted - Raised up high
Abased - Made low or humbled

Here Jesus speaks about those who exalt themselves. This is not an exaltation being done by someone else for a good work or a promotion but it is the people making themselves more important than they really are. (Rom 12:3 KJV) For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Those who think they are superior to others will eventually face the reality of being brought down. They will be humbled or made low. It can happen in this world through circumstances or it could happen on judgment day when those who think they are right with God will hear those ominous words to depart. Then there are those who are humble, that is, they will do their work and if they do anything great, they do not seek notoriety. Their works will one day be made public, and that will be either in Heaven or down here on earth. Those who exalt themselves will be brought down and those who humble themselves will be exalted or raised up.

Mat 23:13 (KJB)
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Jesus then begins a series of eight woes. It should be noted that whenever a woe is pronounced in the Bible, it is always pronounced against unbelievers and never against true believers. The first woe which Jesus pronounces is against the false teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. They proclaim to be the spiritual leaders of Israel and to have great knowledge of the Scriptures but they are totally hypocrites because their teachings are so worldly centered that they shut up the Kingdom of Heaven. The words “shut up” are one word in the Greek which means “lock or close.” Their teachings are never focused on how a person gets to Heaven and the result of that is not only those that hear them are unable to get into Heaven, but the religious leaders themselves have condemned themselves to hell by their own teachings. (1 Tim 4:16 KJV) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. Their concern was for worldly wealth and position. This is also the same situation with every cult, their teachings are false and those who hear them will not get into Heaven as well as those who are teaching it.

Mat 23:14 (KJB)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Devour - Consume or destroy
Pretence - A false appearance or to conceal what is real, pretext

In the Talmud it was written that a man could appoint a scribe to be the executor of his will and to take care of his property and his widow. This was normally a paid function but sometimes the scribes would impose excessive fees on them for everything and eventually they would dwindle away all the substance that the widow had left and of course, it all went into the pockets of the scribe. Eventually the widow could not pay the bills and then the house was sold and the scribe would take his large cut and the widow would probably be left to beg while the scribe stole all her goods. (Exo 22:22 KJV) Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. They neglected that the law provided protection for widows but the greed driven scribes did not care. This is why Jesus called them hypocrites because they taught one thing and did another.

The religious leaders would make long prayers just for appearance sake. It was supposed to show everyone in the community how pious and religious they were. However, their prayers were nothing and meant nothing to God because they were done out of a theatrical heart and not a real heart. It was done before men for approbation. (Prov 28:9 KJV) He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. In the book of Proverbs, God calls that type of praying an abomination. On one hand they destroy the houses of the widows and then pray long prayers to give an air of piety. Hypocrisy of this sort will receive the greater condemnation. (James 3:1 KJV) My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. Even James tells us that those who are false teachers and hypocrites will receive the greater condemnation.

Mat 23:15 (KJB)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

During this particular time, there were many who were interested in Judaism because of the one God which is worshipped. Many who came into it were from religions where they had multiple gods. There were two types of proselytes: The first was the “proselyte of the gate” who were not circumcised and had very few requirements laid on them, and the second was the “proselyte of righteousness” which was the one who followed all of the Jewish rites and customs. Then Jesus pronounces this woe on their desire to make converts. The phrase “compass sea and land” means that they would go to any length to make a convert and when they do, they become twice as much a child of hell as them. It was the strongest condemnation because Jesus was pointing to the fact that their converts were more evil than their mentors. This can be seen in the life of Paul because his biggest detractors, were the Hellenistic Jews. Their attitudes as well as their actions were inspired by hell.