Many people are quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians. Onlookers will say that Christians say one thing on Sunday and do the opposite the rest of the week. I know that I am guilty of this. Many of those who don’t know Christ do not have an understanding of the concept of Grace and the fact that Christians are in need of daily grace. Thank goodness that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.
I want to be authentic in my faith. I want to be grow as a follow of Jesus Christ, who is truly a biblical disciple of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 23, Jesus directly confronts the Pharisees. He delivers a series of 7 woes. Can you image having Jesus give you this kind of bad news? I hope to never be on the receiving end of these woes! Take a moment and read through part of Matthew 23:
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven,swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had beenliving in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them inshedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measureof the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Lets take a look at seven habits of hypocritical people in Matthew 23 as identified by James MacDonald in his study, Authentic: Developing the disciples of Sincere Faith.
1) Hypocrites make salvation as complicated as possible.
The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel and the the salvation of the souls of men. Jesus criticized them for making things more complicated than they needed to be. They misled people about the Messiah and the “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” by misleading them. Salvation is simple, but there is nothing easy about it. It came at a great cost to Jesus who died for our sins. Hypocrites make salvation complicated by lead people to religious systems instead of the person of Jesus Christ. Care for those who are lost, and keep the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness simple and open to all.
2) Hypocrites take what they need from others, even if it hurts them.
Jesus said, “woe to you for you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense you make long prayers, therefore you will receive the greater condemnation.” Pharisees wanted to indoctrinated gentiles into a legalistic system. They were strict in small manners but careless with weightier ones. I don’t want to be a person who simply takes. I don’t want to leave a trail of wounded people in my path. I want to be humble, and be a servant of others.
3) Hypocrites break promises they don’t want to keep.
Jesus said, “if anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” Basically, the Pharisees were trying everything that they could to weasel their way out of commitments. Your commitments will get tested. There will be times when it is easier to break a promise than to keep it. I encourage you to stay true to your word!
4) Hypocrites make a big deal out of small issues and ignore what is important.
How does our commandment in Micah 6:8 to walk humbly, seek mercy and act justly compare to the actions of the Pharisees? The Pharisees were so legalistic that they would ensure that the law was followed, even in the most insignificant of cases, even though they ignored major issues. Jesus cares about justice, mercy and faithfulness, those are the things we should concern ourselves with!
5) Hypocrites are lazy in matters of the heart.
“Woe to you… for you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self -indulgence. First you should clean the inside of the cup and plate, so that the outside also may be clean.” Wow! How often to we polish the outside, the part that people readily see, and neglect the inside. We want to put up a pious front and neglect heartfelt devotion to God. We must be true to our faith, even when no one is watching.
6) Hypocrites look good to others, no matter the cost.
Simply, hypocrites care about how they appear to others. Jesus’ same rebuke about the whitewashed tombstones applies to Christians today. Too often we worry about pressing our shirts and pants for church and give little thought to a heartfelt prayer. As James MacDonald puts it, “what upsets you most — a spot on your shirt, a stain on your dress, or a lump of unrepentant in your heart?”
7) Hypocrites pretend to be better than others.
This one is self explanatory. The Pharisees not only claimed to be righteous, but they claimed to be more righteous than their ancestors. The irony is that these Pharisees were mere days away from crucifying the Son of God.
We are all hypocritical in different parts of our lives. I pray that you (and I) identify the places in our lives where we harbor hypocrisy. I pray that instead of hardening our hearts, we repent of our hypocrisy. I pray that your faith will be genuine.