Let’s read those verses.  Mark 12:38-40 say, “And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.”

In the simplest terms, the Lord is warning His followers against hypocritical people, especially those in leadership roles.  The work of the scribes was extremely important.  Among other things, it was their duty to make copies of the holy Word of God.  It was a very tedious task, making sure that they copied each word faithfully and without mistake.  It is said that they were so careful in their copying that they counted every letter, and then compared the total number of the document with that which they were copying from. If the numbers did not match, the copy was burned. They were meticulous in making sure that no words were left out that belonged to the text, nor any words admitted that did not belong to the text.

In the days of the Lord on the earth, these men tended to be full of self-importance and loved the attention and adoration of others.  They wore clothes to make sure they were noticed by others.  They loved to go out to the marketplaces to receive the greetings of those they met.  They loved their own status!  Although they were thought of as servants of the Lord, their true desire was to gratify their own fleshly desires to be admired of others.

These men would “devour widows’ houses.”  These unscrupulous men took advantage of the widows’ helpless condition to obtain possession of their property.  They would extort money from these women or perhaps even take their property from them by false pretense.  It was by “long prayers’ that these men convinced these vulnerable women that they were Godly men, not interested in filthy lucre.  All the while, that is exactly what they wanted. Is it any wonder that the Lord said, “these shall receive greater damnation.”? 

The Lord spoke harshly of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-33 where He said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” 

Before ending this brief devotion concerning the hypocrisy of certain religious leaders, let us all be cautioned that we ourselves do not live as hypocrites…pretending to be one thing, while in truth we are something altogether different.  The Lord tells us in Matthew 6:5, “thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are.”  He tells us again in Matthew 6:16, “be not, as the hypocrites.”  (396.4)