26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
1901 ASV Translation:
26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.
I. The Problem of Popularity.
A. This final statement of "Woe" is directed toward those who are widely viewed as "good".
B. It is announced under the "thesis" that only "false prophets" get this kind of treatment.
1. This part of Jesus' declaration gives us the boundaries of His meaning. He does not have some sports figure in mind who is "well spoken of" because of his outstanding athleticism. He is not addressing a philanthropist who is "well spoken of" because of a high level of generosity. He is not talking about some political figure who has used his authority to obtain significant favors for large numbers of people and, thus, is a high-draw vote getter. His "realm of meaning" is "religious": that realm in which false prophets move.
2. That Jesus' realm was "religion" does not, in any way, mitigate the danger of being well spoken of by a large crowd, but it does, at least, zero in our attention to the area in which being popular is most destructive. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that the biggest cause of their unbelief was their desire for the glory of men (John 5:44).
C. The "problem area" is the one that has the spirit's lust for status in view. There are no contenders for this "problem's" position as King of the Hill. Nothing any man faces is as potent as the temptation to "be somebody". The greatest sin of all time was the brutal murder of the Son of God and that was not done by men who were being "tempted" by reason of physical torture or emotional insecurity. It was done by men who were jealous of Jesus' influence over the people (Matthew 27:18 and Mark 15:10). Lucifer did not attempt to unseat God from His throne because he was being "tortured" or "threatened with some dire event". He made the attempt in order to be the One Who received the adulation of the angels. Adam and Eve did not eat of the forbidden fruit primarily because it was seen to be good for food or because it was a delight to their eyes; they ate because they had been persuaded that God did not have their best interests at heart and they thought they needed to be able to be "as God" in His wisdom in order to thwart His plans for them. Their sin was against God, not for the stomach or the soul.
II. Why Do Men "Speak Well" of Others?
A. The lust for "being well spoken of " is universal; so why do those who lust for it do it to others?
B. The answer is this: to receive glory in a fallen world, one must give it. If people would give glory to another without receiving it from that other, they would not give it. In this fallen world, it is all about manipulation. Prosperity preachers tell people to send in the bucks so that they will receive back "a hundred fold". No one ever raises cash by telling folks they will get ten cents on the dollar in return. "Send me $1000 and God will give you back $100" is never the message. In this world, "glory" is the most potent currency. To get it, one must tell the masses what they want to hear. This is problematical in that the masses often wish to hear opposite messages, but every skilled liar knows how to tailor messages to the particular crowd.