Commentaries
English
Matthew
  
4. The Second Woe
(Matthew 23:14)
14Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (Mark12:40)


The strict Jews honored money as a proof of God's blessing in their lives. They employed their knowledge of the law and their skillfulness in praying to enrich themselves. They went to rich widows to give their advice with respect to inheritance laws, and closed their suggestions with long prayers, which they had learned by heart. During the prayers, their minds centered on the amount of money they would receive from the widow. Christ unveiled this craftiness and hypocrisy in public, and called the result of these prayers, "futile", and even "God's wrath and judgment" on the hypocrites.
Christ does not condemn long prayers as hypocritical in themselves. If there was not something good in them, they would not have been used for a pretense. They were used to deceive people and this is what made it a wicked practice. Christ himself prayed all night to God, and we are encouraged to pray without ceasing. Since there are many sins to be confessed, many needs to pray for, and many mercies to give thanks for, there is much occasion for long prayers. But the Pharisees' long prayers were repetitious, pretentious, and motivated by greed. By praying like this they were admired as pious, devout men, and the favorites of Heaven. Such godly men could surely be trusted! Therefore, a widow was glad to get a Pharisee for her trustee and guardian to her children. Meanwhile, the eye of the Pharisee was like the eye of a kite's seeking its prey. His gaze frequently rested on some widow's house or property.
Whoever attempts to enrich himself by serving God, or to profit from those that ignore the law shall receive a bitter condemnation which Christ called "greater condemnation." God is love and sacrifice, and he who does not sacrifice and serve reverses the essence of the Holy. If someone profits from others by his false piety, then he is a real hypocrite.

Prayer
Holy Father, help us never to use religion for gaining money, but let us donate and give much that Your name be glorified. Send faithful servants to the widows that they can receive good guidance. Forgive us if we did not care for lonely individuals who have neither friends nor neighbors. Help us to offer them true help, continuous prayer and time for serving them.
Question
Why is any exploitation of religion hated by God?