11. Blessings or Woes. The answer is seen in how we worship
What did it mean when Jesus told the woman at the well that those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth?
Quite simply and quite complexly, it means that we must worship God with sincere hearts, with spirit-filled sincerity and with honesty. I didn’t quite get the connection of why BELIEVE gives the passage of the woes in this chapter at first but the more I read this week about worship, it makes perfect sense.
Years ago I did a comparison of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 and the Woes of Matthew 23. The contrasting thoughts are striking, even down to the different translations of the word “Blessed” which is sometimes translated as “Happy are those…” and the word “Woe” which is sometimes translated as “What sorrow awaits…”
(By the way, some translations actually omit one of the woes, even though it contained in the majority of transcripts, just not two of the oldest ones, and despite the fact that the woe is not contain exactly anywhere else in Scriptures. One of the irritating aspects of liberal textual criticisms and the inconsistent various renditions of the 27 versions of Westcott-Hort translations. Ugh).
For a more in depth look at the comparison, you can click here, which originally came to me when we were going through THE STORY, the predecessor to BELIEVE.
The one sin that Jesus seemed to be the hardest on was not any sexual sin, or the sin of greed, or even unbelief. In fact, the so-called “seven deadly sins” are all forgiven by Christ, but He is the hardest and most condemning against the sin of spiritual hypocrisy committed by religious frauds. And nowhere is it more evident than in Matthew 23. God wants us to worship in spirit and truth, with sincere hearts, not out of obligation or guilt, not to do penance towards a hostile unmerciful deity but to truly express our love and devotion.
It doesn’t matter whether we are in an ornate chapel or dark dungeon, we can worship God with sincerity of hearts. Observe the contrasts of a Blessed Relationship and Blasphemous Religion.
1. Matthew 5:3 to Matthew 23:13--The blessed admit their shortcomings and are admitted into heaven, But woe to those who aren’t going to heaven and keep others out.
2. Matthew 5:4 to Matthew 23:14--The blessed and happy receive comfort when they mourn, But what sorrow awaits (New Living Translation) to those who actually cause others to mourn. (Look it up, some translations actually delete this verse.)
3. Matthew 5:5 to Matthew 23:15--The blessed and happy are humble and inherit the earth, But woe to those who travel the earth to convert others to hell.
4. Matthew 5:6 to Matthew 23:16-22--The blessed desire righteousness and are satisfied, But woe to those who are never filled by the world’s goods, nor regard a righteous God and his sanctified representations.
5. Matthew 5:7 to Matthew 23:23-24--The blessed give and receive mercy, But what sorrow awaits those who neglect mercy, justice and faith, and are merciless on lesser matters.
6. Matthew 5:8 to Matthew 23:25-26--The blessed are those who are inwardly pure and shall see God, But woe to those who are inwardly wicked, for they are blind and can't see anything.
7. Matthew 5:9 to Matthew 23:27-28--The blessed are those who help others make peace with God, others call you God’s children, But what sorrow awaits those who appear to be like God's children; but are inwardly dead and unclean, filled with hypocrisy and not at peace.
8. Matthew 5:10-12 to Matthew 23:29-36--An extended list of blessedness for those who are persecuted for God, resulting in entering the kingdom of heaven, But an extended listing of woes to those who persecute others who stand for God, resulting in the condemnation of hell.