We all know about the love of Jesus and His saving grace. Jesus led sinners out of sin and forgave them. We focus on His love and forgiveness, but we forget that He stood strongly against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who were the religious leaders of that time. They made a show of religion, but their hearts were far from God. They used their positions of leadership for personal gain and cared nothing about the people.
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?“ (Matthew 22:18).
Actions speak louder than words, and their actions showed the Pharisees were hypocrites. Is there any hypocrisy within Christianity? The answer is yes. Any Christian who has two standards of living is a hypocrite. The word hypocrite means to act or pretend. If you pretend to be a Christian on Sunday morning but live a worldly life, then ask yourself which life is real? Jesus saw right through the scribes and Pharisees, and He sees right through you.
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in“ (Matthew 23:13).
If you haven’t accepted Christ for salvation, then you’ve chosen to cut yourself off from eternal life no matter how many rites and rituals you follow. If your purported faith in Jesus has not changed your way of life, then you may be like the Pharisees who only used religion for what they could get from it. Only true faith will allow you into Heaven; and if your actions hinder another person from coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, then woe unto you. Hypocrite!
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation“ (Matthew 23:14).
Christians should never take advantage of anyone. The scribes made sure everyone saw them praying, but they had no problem in taking advantage of those less fortunate, even taking the house of a widow who had little money. We see it today. Television preachers cry for more money to support their million- dollar lifestyles and care nothing for the tenderhearted widows who support them. The less fortunate are the ones who need aid. Jesus had a description of these men. Hypocrites!
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves“ (Matthew 23:15).
A proselyte was a Gentile who converted to Judaism; and the scribes and Pharisees were serious about converting people, but then the rites of religion got in the way of faith. Do we see anything like that today?
Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses come to mind. They lead converts to Hell, but they aren’t Christians. Then I thought of the Catholic Church with their Pope and the many rites and rituals they require that aren’t found in Scripture. Salvation isn’t through rites and rituals, but only through faith in Christ. Many people are being led to Hell by believing that rites and rituals will save them.
What about Protestant denominations? Missionaries travel far and wide, but how many actually preach the Gospel? I knew a missionary once who was centered in India and spoke of the dangers he faced. Eventually I learned that his mission wasn’t to bring the lost to Christ, but to bring Christians into his denomination. Hypocrite.
There is an important mission field that’s often overlooked. It’s right in your own neighborhood. How do you represent Christ to the people around you? Like the Pharisees, do you wear your Sunday finest for all to see, so everyone would say “There goes a righteous man”? Then do you berate the waitress who serves you a meal? How about the store clerk who rings up your groceries? If you have the outward appearance of a Christian but your actions speak otherwise, woe unto you. Hypocrite!
“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing: but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
“Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:16-22).
Where’s your allegiance? Are you more interested in pleasing the denomination you’ve joined than with pleasing God? Every denomination has its own set of rules to live by. Some are Biblical and some are just man’s interpretations. God is the authority in a Christian’s life.
I’ve attended various denominations, and they all have their own take of Scripture. Some are very liberal and don’t hold Scripture as authority. Some require works and don’t believe salvation is by faith alone. Some have a list of what they deem as sin, although you have to skew Scripture in order to see their logic. Our allegiance is only to God, and His truth disclosed in Scripture. If you swear an oath to a denomination but haven’t accepted Christ, then you’re pretending to be something you’re not. Hypocrite!
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel“ (Matthew 23:23-24).
There is no possible way to buy eternal life. The scribes and Pharisees knew the Law and were good at making a show of paying their tithes. Money is important to keeping the lights on in the sanctuary, but God wants your heart. The way you serve Him and represent Him to others is much more necessary. If you pay your dues on Sunday but lie, cheat, and steal on Monday, you’re a hypocrite.
Other people watch you and judge Christianity by your actions. If you show mercy and grace to a non-Christian, you just may open a door for someone to come to salvation. On the other hand, if a fellow Christian sees you openly sinning, they may use your poor example to justify their own sin. Let others see Christ’s light shining in you so that light can lead others to salvation or strengthen a fellow Christian’s walk. Woe unto you if you’re blind to your own sin, but require perfection in others. Hypocrite!
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter that the outside of them may be clean also“ (Matthew 23:25-26).
Is Jesus talking about washing dishes? No. A person may look good on the outside, but inside may be very dirty. Outward appearance is a show for others, but God looks inside to the heart. Lately we’ve heard about the Catholic priests who’ve been sexually abusing young boys. They wear fancy robes and give the appearance of being very holy, but inside they’re ruled by Satan.
You can point fingers and shake your head, but what about you? Have you allowed the Holy Spirit to search your heart to reveal your hidden sins? No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, there are always sins that you need to be forgiven of. A little white lie can be a big problem in your walk with Jesus. A little peek at pornography is still a major sin. Woe unto you if you look good on the outside, but allow the ugliness of sin to rule your heart. Hypocrite!
“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“ (Matthew 23:27-28).
It was the practice of those times to whitewash tombs around Jerusalem prior to Passover so that nobody would touch one by mistake, making them ceremonially unclean. The whitewash did nothing to change what was inside the tomb. When a person accepts Christ for salvation, there should be evidence of change on the outside, but there also needs to be change on the inside.
Prior to salvation we were dead. Death of the mortal body meant eternal death and separation from God. When you accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, your sins were forgiven and the dead soul contained inside you was given eternal life. If you claim Jesus for salvation but don’t really mean it then you’re like the whitewashed tombs of old. You might look good to others, but God knows the truth.
No matter how much whitewash is put on the tomb through good works, you’ll remain dead inside unless you understand that you’re a sinner and only the grace of God through Christ can give you eternal life. If you’re living a lie, then you’re still lost. Hypocrite!
“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“ (Matthew 23:29-30).
They wouldn’t have killed the prophets? Really? What did they do to Jesus? They had Him murdered. They didn’t believe Him and they persecuted Him. Today we do the same thing to Him. Are you sure you wouldn’t have been in the crowd saying “Crucify Him” or hiding with Peter as Jesus hung on the cross? Many people are convinced they’re Christians but pray to Mary or some other so-called saint with magical powers as deemed by the Pope. Still others look to seers to contact a dead loved one for guidance. In doing so we deny Christ. If you’re a Christian, this is forbidden. Hypocrite!
In this discourse, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious Jewish men who lived by double standards. Christians should learn from this and not be hypocrites. Our faith should govern our life and show through our actions. Christianity isn’t a rule book, but the Bible is our guide to the way we are to live.
It’s easy to be a “good Christian” while sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, but the truth of our faith shows in our behavior when we step outside into the world. How do you represent Christ at the grocery store or while driving on the freeway? Do you change from a smiling, kindhearted child of God and into another personality once you’re away from your fellow Christians?
A Pharisee once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
If you love God, then you’ll honor Him through your actions and words. If you love God, you’ll care about others and not berate them or abuse them. If your profession of faith wasn’t an honest profession, then you’ll forever be a hypocrite.
Look at your own life and see if any of these behavior patterns rule you. You can’t change others, but you can allow God to change you. Don’t be a hypocrite.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
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