Luke 11:42f — Unintended Purposes


Using something that was made for one purpose in a way other then what it was made for.

Winnie the Pooh hair brush that I have stolen from my daughter to use for my beard.

Using a hammer to fix a laser printer

Bobby Pins = Inner Ear Scratchers

I dug a hole with an umbrella when I was young

Frisbee as a dinner plate

This morning we want to consider the ways that the Pharisees ended up serving the opposite purpose for which they were intended.

Read Luke 11:42-51

WOE — An exclamation of judgment upon God’s enemies, or of misfortune on oneself, or, in the ministry of Jesus Christ, of sadness over those who fail to recognise the true misery of their condition.

Woe to those whose religion blinds themselves and misleads others Lk 11:52 See also Mt 23:13-33; Lk 11:42-51

In this case in Luke 11 it may well be the case that Jesus is pronouncing judgment while at the time expressing sadness over those who fail to recognise the true misery of their condition.

I.) Woe #1 — Pharisees have missed the point

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone (Luke 11:42).

The Religious experts and cultural gatekeepers were so focused on the important minutia — mint, rue, and cummin — (comparatively speaking) that they missed the larger purposes in the midst of the important minutia. The Lord Christ did not say to ignore the important minutia but he did clearly communicate that one can get so bogged down in details that one misses the forest for all the trees.

This is why the Lord Christ told them at another time that you ““strained gnats and swallowed camels” (Matthew 23:24).

So what was the larger point that the Lord Christ is faulting them for missing.

Luke 11:41 be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

There was a lack of generosity on their part. There were people in genuine need but they were being bypassed so that the religious experts could pad their pocketbook and escape their responsibility.

Another example of this is in

Mark 7:9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

ATS Bible Dictionary

The son would say to his needy parents, “It is a gift- whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me,” that is, I have already devoted to God that which you request of me, Mark 7:11; and the traditionary teachings of the Jewish doctors would enforce such a vow, and not suffer him to do aught for his parents against it, although it was contrary to nature and reason, and made void the law of God as to honoring parents, Matthew 15:3-9. The Pharisees, and the Talmudists their successors, permitted even debtors to defraud their creditors by consecrating their debt to God; as if the property were their own, and not rather the right of their creditor.

The point of application is to look not only to our own needs but also to the needs of others … the needs of others who very likely cannot do us a favor back.

Illustration — Two Seminary Students tithing to one another.

II.) Woe #2 — Pharisees have a wrong preoccupation

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces (Luke 11:43).

Already a theme is developing here. That theme is that the Pharisees had prioritized themselves. They were their own gods and all of their reality was spinning around them. The problem here, when reduced to its essence, is that they were selfish idolaters worshiping themselves.

There is another sub theme going on here and that is the idea that the religious gatekeepers were pimping it up for their own clique. While Jesus identifies them as “full of greed and wickedness” here and elsewhere as full of “dead men’s bones,” they moved in a context that never would have told them that truth.

Instead they were part of a “mutual admiration society,” and that society played the game of “you stroke me, and I’ll stroke you.” So, they’d attend, for example, their version of the Oscars or their version of Synod and the mutual admiration society would go out of their way to compliment or exalt their own who were also members of their clique … their mutual admiration society.

The problem here again though, is that they were doing this all at the expense of looking out for and caring for those in need.

It is the same type of thing that Jesus gets at in the Parable of the good Samaritan. The fault there was that the religious gatekeepers took no pity upon the one in need, to busy to do for themselves or for members of their own mutual admiration society.

So … they were motivated and driven by their desire to have the approval of their fellow members of the mutual admiration society, rather than God’s.

“they loved the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces”

We should pause to note the consequence of this sniveling groveling for recognition from fellow members of their cult clique.

1.) A loss of the ability to speak the truth

One is not recognized by the mutual admiration society when one speaks truth to fellow mutual admiration society members. As such one simply ceases to speak the truth and eventually, if practiced constantly over a long course of time, one loses not only the ability to speak the truth but also the ability to recognize the truth.

At bottom all of this, for the religious gatekeepers, is not only about padding their credibility with the Mutual Admiration society but it is also about avoiding the opposite and that is the curse of being seen as irrelevant, unimportant and insignificant to those who comprise the mutual admiration society. Prophets have always been hated and rejected and the religious gatekeepers in this passage would rather disassociate themselves from the truth then to experience the fate of being despised and rejected.


Now, the danger in all this is that it could be the case that people who hear this kind of message resolve to be as insulting as possible in the name of “telling the truth.”

First, remember that Jesus did not speak this way to all men. This kind of speaking was reserved for the religious gatekeepers who were locking everyone else out from true religion.

Second, remember that there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. Not every opportunity to speak like this may be the best time to speak like this.

Thirdly, none of this overturns Scriptures requirement that our speech must be seasoned as with salt.

Fourthly, remember we said at the outset that the woes were pronounced in the context of Jesus sadness that these men he is speaking to do not recognize the true misery of their condition. It is comparatively easy to get righteously indignant but perhaps we should never speak this way until we are genuinely saddened that we have to speak this way.

III.) Woe #3 — Pharisees Have Inverted Their Purpose

“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it” (Luke 11:44).

In order to make full sense of this verse we have to correlate it with a passages in the law,

Numbers 19:16

16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

So … the Lord Christ is telling them that people who come in contact with them were defiled.

The stated purpose of the Pharisees was to lead the people and nation back into righteousness and holiness but instead they were having the exact opposite effect. And this was being done without even the courtesy of they themselves being marked as “graves.”

Keep in mind the obvious that the problem here wasn’t with their physical person but rather was with what they were communicating and teaching to the people.

Woe unto a people or nation when their putative leaders in holiness and righteousness becomes a means by which they are infected by a cesspool of uncleanness.

So, the Pharisees were themselves both unclean (sinful) and defiling to others. Per Numbers 19, those who came into contact with the Pharisees were rendered unclean. Doubtless this is why the Lord Christ says to them elsewhere,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

They, who were intended to be a blessing, were a curse.

That which the Pharisees prided themselves in being and doing was the very opposite of the reality of the matter.
This pronouncement by the Lord Christ may have been the deepest cut of all to the Jewish Ministerial Corps.

We’ve talked about this before … but will mention it again here … those who abandon God’s law word begin to occupy an upside down, inside-out world and in that “Alice in Wonderland World” everything becomes inverted.

“In A Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis wrote about a man who ordered milk and eggs from a waiter in a restaurant. After tasting the milk he commented to the waiter that it was delicious. The waiter replied, “Milk is only the secretion of a cow, just like urine and feces.” After eating the eggs he commented on the tastiness of the eggs. Again the waiter responded that eggs are only a by-product of a chicken. After thinking about the waiter’s comment for a moment the man responded, “You lie. You don’t know the difference between what nature has meant for nourishment, and what it meant for garbage.”

The Spirit of the Age when uninformed by the Spirit of Christ always teaches this kind of upside down world, where good is evil and evil is good. Bertrand Russel, the 20th Century renown Atheist caught something of how this achieved methodologically speaking,

“The social psychologist … will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: first, that influence of home are obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before
the age ten. It is for the scientist to make these maxims precise and discover how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies of policeman”

This is the kind of thing that happens when a person, a family, or a culture falls into the Rabbit hole.

Luther, echoing the point that the Lord Christ is making here said,

“It is the nature of all hypocrites and false prophets to create a conscience where there is none, and to cause conscience to disappear where it does exist.”

We should not only be on the lookout for this in others or in the culture around us. We should also pray fervently that God would press His finger upon where we are living in the upside down world… where we have become unmarked graves. We are … I am … also a carrier of upsidedownitis. May God be pleased to open our eyes so we might repent.

So … the Pharisees had inverted their purpose. How much more the modern Church today?


1.) ” Do forget the OT, please. Seriously. You must understand that Romans 12 – 13 and the rest of the NT is a radical departure from OT Israel. Israel’s mandate was to make the land of Canaan (and other nations by extension) submit to its rule and reign. The NT Church is to submit to the reign of the nations. These two mandates are not only different, they are opposite.”

2.) “We express a passion for the supremacy of God… by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order … We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism.”

3.) “There is no reason why Christians should argue against having a Muslim holiday on the school calendar if there is a significant group or percentage of Muslims in the community – that would simply be fair and it would simply makes sense. We should not claim the privilege of having our religious holidays on the calendar and consider it some kind of Christian victory to keep other religious holidays off the calendar.”

4.) “Here we have two people who desire to be married and what does the Church tell them? What does the Church say? The Church says ‘no.’” “Can you believe that the Culture and Corporations are fully invested in giving homosexuals “marriage” rights and yet the Church is lagging so far behind?


Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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