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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 23 - Verse 14

Verse 14. Devour widows' houses. The word houses is here used to denote property or possessions of any kind. You take away, or get possession of, by improper arts and pretences. This was done in two ways:

(1.) They pretended to a very exact knowledge of the law, and to the poor a perfect observance of it. They pretended to extraordinary justice to the poor, friendship for the distressed, and willingness to aid those who were in embarrassed circumstances. They thus induced widows and poor people to commit the management of their property to them, as guardians and executors, and then took advantage of them, and defrauded them.

(2.) By their long prayers they put on the appearance of great sanctity, and induced many weak women to give them much, under pretence of devoting it to religious purposes.

Long prayer. Their prayers are said to have been often three hours in length. One rule among them, says Lightfoot, was to meditate an hour, then pray an hour, and then meditate another hour—all of which was included in their long prayers or devotions.

Damnation. Condemnation. The word here probably refers to future punishment. It does not always, however. It means, frequently, no more than condemnation, or the Divine disapprobation of a certain course of conduct, as in 1 Co 11:29: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." That is, he that eateth and drinketh in an unworthy manner—disorderly, not with reverence—is guilty, and his conduct will be disapproved or condemned by God: referring solely to the impropriety of the manner of partaking of the Lord's Supper, and not at all to the worthiness or unworthiness of the person. See Barnes "1 Co 11:29".

Comp. Ro 14:23.

For a pretence. For appearance or show; in order that they might the better defraud poor people. They would not be condemned for making long prayers, but because they did it with an evil design. Public prayers should, however, be short, and always to the point. A man praying in a Sunday-school should pray for the school, and usually not for everything else.

{b} "widow's houses" 2 Ti 3:6; Tit 1:11

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