Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
The charge here is that the leaders exercised their authority in such a way as to block entrance into Heaven. It’s similar to the teaching that the church holds the keys to the kingdom and have the authority to decide who is and who isn’t a believer. There’s been a resurgence of authoritarian churches that do just that under their plurality of elders in recent years.
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.
Jesus noted that the Pharisees were converting gentile believes into Judaism, but also requiring all of the laws to be obeyed by the new convert, both the Old Testament and oral laws. Then the convert would be expected to go and convert others just as he was. We see that within Christianity – brothers trying convert Christians from other denominations into their own. It’s about righteousness more than anything else.
Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
Since Christians do not usually make oaths, most would think that we’re free and clear of this one. But there’s the second element of the reasoning of the Pharisees. They resorted to the use of clever but unsound reasoning, especially in relation to moral questions, or casuistry. This is something I see often in Christian circles. I’ve seen Christians take a description from one passage and apply it as a prescription to explain how and why a belief ought to be accepted in another passage. Such a thing would have been easier to get away with, but the internet puts the Bible in the original Greek in easy reach of well, anyone, and such reasoning is ultimately unsound when everyone can check for themselves what the verses say and how they say it.