Before I get into Jesus comments and concerns, let me state up front, it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t like the people who were lawyers, he just didn’t like what they did and the problems they were causing. OK? Jesus didn’t dislike anybody, but he did frequently get quite stirred up over what some people were doing. He could love the person but hate the behaviour, and that’s a lesson we all need to learn.
So what was his beef with lawyers? Here are five things, most of which come from this section of scripture.
1. Lawyers twisted the word of God
One of the concerns Jesus had with lawyers, scribes and Pharisees was the way they would “interpret” the law and then make it meaningless. The classic example is in Matthew 23 where they said if a person made an oath by the temple it meant nothing, but if they swore by the gold of the temple they were bound by their oath. (Typical of so many people who are focussed on the gold!) But Jesus said, “You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” (Matthew 23:17)
By twisting the word of God they allowed people to have “wiggle room” to wriggle out of their oaths. It is no different to those legal practitioners today who seek loopholes in the law to justify an end that was never intended in the law.
2. Lawyers took away the key of knowledge
The purity and simplicity of the law of God was such that any person could understand it and apply it. It did not need interpretation as it clearly showed what was right and what was wrong. And there is great wisdom contained in the law of God.
However when lawyers began to interpret and read into the law shades of meaning that were not there, this simplicity, purity and wisdom was watered down and taken away. The people lost the access to God’s wisdom because the lawyers played word games to take away the gift of God that was given in his law.
3. Lawyers bind heavy burdens hard to bear
The lawyers of Jesus day would load the people up with all manner of burdens requiring them to do things that were not required in the law. They were in positions of power and could manipulate situations to their advantage, and like some who abuse their power, they did so to keep the people under their control. A classic example of this power was that they would cast people out of the synagogue if they did not follow their rules and edicts as was shown in John 9.
4. Lawyers would not lift a finger to ease people’s burden
Following on from the previous point, the lawyers would create these huge burdens for people, and then do nothing to assist them to be freed from the burden. We sometimes see this even today with not only lawyers but also other professions. Many will give an opinion but will not give an answer. An opinion just adds to the burden a person may have but an answer gives a solution which takes away the burden.
Jesus came and taught the people with authority, not as the scribes taught as it says in Matthew 7:29. Jesus gave the people answers and solutions, not opinions. He lifted their burdens and taught freedom.
5. Lawyers condemned the righteous unjustly
Jesus showed that it was the lawyers and the rulers in former generations who were responsible for murdering and killing the prophets and righteous men sent by God. Jesus then condemns the lawyers of his generation for they then built memorials and tombs to remember those who were killed, but by so doing they were bearing witness to the fact it was those of their own profession who were responsible. Their predecessors did these evil deeds by condemning the righteous and twisting the law to achieve their end, and the latter generations memorialised the outcome of their evil.
They did it to Jesus later on, they did it to Paul and they did it to the apostles and disciples of the Lord. At the time the lawyers and judges had these righteous people put to death they called them criminals. But the later generations of lawyers and judges called them martyrs and in their actions of memorial building bore witness to the evil of their predecessors.
Finally let me say this. There will be no lawyers in the kingdom of God. Not that there won’t be anyone trained as a lawyer in the kingdom, but there will not be any lawyers when God sets up his kingdom. Why? Because God himself will administer whatever form of law he puts in place, if there is any law at all.
In essence there is no need for the law if a people are law abiding. In God’s kingdom when all of mankind have been transformed into the image of Christ, why will there be any need for law, at least law as we know it? Law is not given for the just but for the unjust.
As I said earlier, it is not lawyers per se that Jesus hated, but what they did and how they misused and abused their roles. There are probably many other issues that I could have added in addition to these. Please feel free to add to this in the comments section.