Consider one of the harshest condemnation of religious leaders ever delivered:
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?”
For the source, and more, use the DOOR.
These are the words of gentle Jesus, now grown up and oblivious to modern political correctness, as found in Matthew 23: 33 (NASB). Even more, these word are addressed to the educated religious leaders of His “church”¹
There are several things to note about these words:
(1) As we’ve said many times, context is important. Christian teachers (as well as teachers in other religions) repeatedly hijack Bible, or religious words from the context they’re written in to support their own thinking or worldview (often expressed in a 3-point sermon or protest of some sort).
(2) These words are part of even more scathing comments.
(3) They come near the end of Jesus’ ministry, and His crucifixion.
(4) Jesus’ words here, and other places in this context, support his teaching about a real hell, a historical Adam and Zechariah (son of Berechiah),
(5) This passage is a powerful one on what real hypocrisy is.
(6) In a general way, Jesus prophetically points to disaster to come.
The time is upon us, if one takes the Bible seriously, to consider the “whole gospel” about what God wants and expects of people created in His image. Reading the Gospel of Matthew is a good place to start and, for a group discussion, chapter 23 in that book. Serious issues are addressed, indirectly as well as directly, in this reading–items that are often glossed over and tabled.
Bible discussion is often hard, but raising what seem to be unanswerable questions is okay. Jesus often did that, giving those who listened something to take home and think about.
¹ The word “church” is not really appropriate here, because church as we think of it hadn’t occurred yet.