Matthew 23:14

KJV 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.
NKJV Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

What does Matthew 23:14 mean?

Scholars report that the earliest and best manuscripts of Matthew do not include verse 14. For this reason, it's skipped or included in brackets in many modern translations, including the ESV and the NIV. The words of this verse are included in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47; both are instances where Jesus was criticizing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. That such an occurrence is so rare demonstrates how remarkably consistent the New Testament Scriptures have been preserved from the earliest known manuscripts to those copied later.

The sentiment recorded in some translations of Matthew 23:14 is not false, it is simply out of place. These are words of Christ, as reported by Mark and Luke. Throughout this passage, Jesus pronounces "woe" on the scribes and Pharisees. For their offenses, their condemnation at the judgment would be even greater.

The Pharisees "devoured" the homes of widows by placing large burdens on these famously poor and overlooked members of society. Or, by failing to protect them from the burdens placed on them by others. After losing their husbands, widows were in danger of losing their entire livelihood, if those resources were not carefully managed. Israel's religious leaders should have stepped in to help these struggling women, rather than taking advantage of them to enrich the temple.
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