In Matthew 22:23-31, it says that the Sadducees said there was no resurrection. Also, Acts 23: 8 says the Sadducees didn't believe in angels or spirits. If they didn't believe in angels or spirits, then why believe in the words of the Old Testament?
If the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection, then why did they even bother? With anything? Why would they challenge a man who claimed to be the Son of God, when they didn't believe anyway?
In my life, I want to worship God, but if there was no belief that I would be resurrected to live eternity with God, then what would be the point? It just doesn't seem reasonable to worship God while here on earth, only to die into 'nothing'. What would the point in that be? And it would seem to me that most likely, God would see this as futile.
I apologize, but this is just simply confusing to me.
So, was this group of people just grasping for glory, or money, or prestige? Surely, it sounds like they had placed themselves on some sort of 'religious' pedestal. But if they didn't believe in the resurrection, then also why a religious pedestal?
You have reached the conclusion that Paul spoke about, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (I Corinthians 15:12-19).
You also pretty much pegged the Sadducees. This religious sect was mostly composed of politicians. Of this group, Adam Clarke writes,
"The SADDUCEES had their origin and name from one Sadoc, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrin, and teacher of the law in one of the great divinity schools in Jerusalem, about 264 years before the incarnation.
"This Antigonus having often in his lectures informed his scholars, that they should not serve God through expectation of a reward, but through love and filial reverence only, Sadoc inferred from this teaching that there were neither rewards nor punishments after this life, and, by consequence, that there was no resurrection of the dead, nor angel, nor spirit, in the invisible world; and that man is to be rewarded or punished here for the good or evil he does.
"They received only the five books of Moses, and rejected all unwritten traditions. From every account we have of this sect, it plainly appears they were a kind of mongrel deists, and professed materialists." [Adam Clarke's Commentary, Matthew 16:1]
Another commentator, R. L. Whiteside in his book, The Four-Fold Gospel, further states,
"They were the materialists of that day. Considering all God's promises as referring to this world, they looked upon poverty and distress as evidence of God's curse. Hence to relieve the poor was to sin against God in interfering with his mode of government. Far fewer than the Pharisees, they were their rivals in power; for they were the aristocratic party, and held the high-priesthood, with all its glories. Their high political position, their great wealth, and the Roman favor which they courted by consenting to foreign rule and pagan customs, made them a body to be respected and feared." [from his comments on Matthew 3:7].
However, it shouldn't be so confusing. People today are much the same. We have politicians who claim to be Christians while living an immoral life. The claim is made because it garners them more votes as Christianity remains popular in the United States. You can also see it in the denominations. I have an article about a Lutheran minister who was suspended twice for stating in the pulpit that he believed there was no God! It even shows up among the members:
"In his study of the beliefs of mainline Protestants (including Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians), Barna documented a rejection of key Christian doctrines. Only 35% of mainline Protestant church members believe Christ was sinless; 34% believe the Bible is totally accurate; 27% agree that works don’t earn heaven; and 20% believe Satan is real." [Crisis in America’s Churches: Bible Knowledge at All-Time Low]
But that is because their leaders also lack faith.
1998: A poll of 7,441 Protestant clergy in the U.S. showed a wide variation in belief. The following ministers did not believe in the virgin birth:
American Lutherans 19% American Baptists 34% Episcopalians 44% Presbyterians 49% Methodists 60%
I would say that sects like the Sadducees are more commonplace than we would like to think. "Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after" (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11).