Mourners comforted—destroyers condemned
(Matthew 5:4 NASB) “”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
(Matthew 23:14 NASB) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.”
There are also, of course, other kinds of sorrow, legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate. To express these sorrows and to cry over them opens an escape valve that keeps our feelings from festering and poisoning our emotions and our whole life. It provides the way for healing, just as washing out a wound helps prevent infection.
An Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” The trouble-free life is likely to be a shallow life. We often learn more and mature more from times of sorrow than from times when everything is going well. A familiar poem by Robert Browning Hamilton expresses the truth:
I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way, But left me none the wiser For all she had to say I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she, But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me. (Cited in William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:94)
These false religioinists use the guise of religion for greed and covetousness, especially to steal from widows. This is a gross sin and it is common. There are some persons—preachers, leaders and professing hypocrites—who court the attention and favor of people, especially widows, for the purpose of securing or getting their money. They seek large donations, endowments, trusts, investments, and gifts to promote themselves or their institution. And the great tragedy is this: such false and hypocritical hearts use the guise of religion to promote themselves and their false ideas. Their call to people is to institutional religion, not to the honor of God. Of course, vain men are succeptible to such appeals, but widows in particular are exposed to those who seem to be so devoted to God.
Note: Christ said that the damnation of these shall be greater. There are some sins more horrible than others. Using religion for selfish ends is one of them. This sin will receive a greater damnation. Another fact should be noted here: widows hold a special place in God’s heart. He has always instructed His people to care for widows in a very special way.
Stealing from widows (and widowers) is one of the most serious sins that can be committed. It will receive “the greater damnation,” yet it is done every day, even by religious persons. It happens like this: a man covets something—to have his ideas spread through the media, or his institution strengthened and enlarged, or his pockets filled. Therefore, the man begins to court people who have money, especially widows. He seeks either donations and investments or to become trustee of their estates.
The sin is twofold.
1) The money sought is not for the honor of God, but for the promotion of oneself or one’s institution.
2) The guise of religion—being a religious person, organization, or institution—is used to secure the money.
There is one question that needs to be asked with an open heart by every man in every generation: Can the godly concern for the lost and starving masses of the world and the huge ornate buildings and homes and bank accounts of Christians be from the same God?
The point is this: a man’s motives must be pure. He must seek only the honor of God and the salvation and strengthening of people. Two specific things must be done.
1) Whatever money a man seeks, especially from widows, must be carefully used for God and for people in need, not for oneself nor for institutional religion.
2) Every single believer must deny himself totally. He must give and give, and he must work in order to have enough to give to others (Ephes. 4:28). He must always be in a state and condition of sacrificing. He must never store up. Storing up can reap only one benefit: to be called rich and to feel materially secure. The fallacy of this is that true security can come only from God (Matthew 6:25-34; 1 John 5:11-15).