Well, we survived another Monday and we are more than half way to hump day, so I would say this week is looking good.
Today we will cover the fourth and final category in our study of the Pharisees. It is the big one; the characteristic probably used the most to describe a Pharisee. Yep, you guessed it; today we will be talking about hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a tricky subject as it encompasses many of the characteristics we already discussed (pride, self-righteousness, obedience), yet it is so much more.
From the harsh words Jesus used in Matthew 23 and elsewhere, it is my opinion that no other subject angered Jesus more. His anger is most known from his actions in Matthew 21:12, where he gets angry at the religious leaders for turning the temple into a circus, which is actually tied to this whole hypocrisy issue. Jesus is very clear that he does not tolerate hypocrites and as his followers we are not to be like them in any way, but, unfortunately, it is the term most synonymous with Christians today. It is true that by the world’s standards a lot of Christians are hypocrites, but are we hypocrites by God’s standard? Let us find out.
Merriam Webster defines a hypocrite as “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion or a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. Hypocrisy, as found in the Bible, derives from the Greek word hypokrisis, which means playing a part or putting on a mask, and was the term used for actors back in the day. Furthermore, it is my belief that there are three different types of hypocrisy found in the bible:
1. “Do as I say and not as I do” hypocrisy:
This may be the most common type of hypocrisy. It is often the one used against Christians when they fall to temptation.
Matthew 23:2-3 (NLT): “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.
Romans 2:21-23 (NLT): Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?[b] 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it.
Once again, the Pharisees were not in trouble because they believed in strict obedience; they angered God because they added to His law and then followed only the laws they chose to follow while still holding everyone else to their impossible standards.
In addition, the laws they chose to follow were only followed so they would appear to be holy or spiritual and not out of love for God. They only cared about the sins that could be seen by others.
Matthew 23:25-28 (NLT): 25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too. 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Now, let me caution you about something here before we move on. Just because we know something to be true, doesn’t make it easy to implement. Just because we try to follow God’s way in an area in our life and we fail, does not mean we are hypocrites. Let me repeat that. Failing doesn’t make us hypocrites. The devil will try to use this against us if we let him, so stand strong in this area. We are only hypocrites if we know and teach something and then intentionally refuse to follow what we know or teach.
On the other hand, I don’t want to down play this “do as I say approach” because it may very well be one of the biggest obstacles to getting non-believers into church. Why? Well, this type of behavior angers non-Christians, which I believe relates to hypocrisy #2:
2. Hypocritical Judging:
People assume all judging is wrong, but as we discussed in Part 1 of this study, this is simply not true. Jesus speaks against hypocritical judging, which is judging someone else when your life is full of sin.
Matthew 8:3-7 (NLT): 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Matthew 7:1-5(NLT): Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[c] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[d] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
These verses are not telling us not to judge at all, they are telling us not to judge hypocritically. Jesus is telling us to fix our sins, then help our brothers and sisters do the same.
Jesus was angered by the Pharisees’ double standard. They expected the common Jewish people to follow all their man-made rules, yet, they were not following them. Often times they wrote laws with loopholes so they would not have to follow their own laws. But more often than not, they just appeared to be following the laws. For example, they were adamant that they were not to steal; yet, they made a farce out of the temple. They were doing what many accuse Christians of today; they were picking and choosing which laws to follow while they expected everyone else to follow all the laws.
3. Performance hypocrisy:
The Pharisees professed great religious devotions with words and deeds, but it was not out of love for God.
Isaiah 29:13 (NLT):And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their devotion was out of love for self and for the praise of people.
John 12:43 (NLT) For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
The laws of God became more about self promotion and boasting and less about honoring God. It became a show or an act. They also sought titles, promotions, and followers.
Matthew 23:5-12 (NLT): 5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.[b] 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’[c]
8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.[d] 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Their works or acts of service were for recognition and praise of others and not God.
Matthew 6:1-6 (NLT):
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Now yesterday I mentioned that I had the spirit of a Pharisee and so did the other son in the story of the prodigal son. I had the spirit of a Pharisee because I felt I was the good one and should be rewarded or praised for all my efforts, loyalty, good deeds, and faithfulness and became angry when others received, what I believed to be, unearned acclaim. Those prior verses are just what I needed to understand why I was wrong, why the other brother in the prodigal son story was wrong. You see, are human nature wants to agree with the “other brother” because it is not fair in human standards. It is just not fair! However, God does not care about our human nature or standards. He simply wants our obedience and wants us to put as much value on the lost as he does. There will be times when we have to swallow our pride and be obedient just for the sake of obedience.
Matthew 23:11-12, “The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In addition, God really convicted me with the following verse:
Luke 17:7-10 (NLT): 7 “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”
I heard you God, loud and clear! It is kind of like my children wanting money for chores they are already supposed to be doing. Well, it is something to think about anyway.
In short, the Pharisees were hypocrites because they did not practice what they preached, judged others for their own sings while ignoring their own, and everything they did for God was for show, praise of peers, titles, or fame; it was never about love or a personal, honest relationship with God. Can we really say it is that much different today, in our own church, in our own life?
At the beginning of this post I asked if we, Christians, would be called hypocrites by God’s standards. While I can’t answer for all Christians, for me, the answered would be “yes.” I am ashamed to admit there are times when I do behave like a hypocrite and I am sure glad we have a gracious and loving God who not only forgives but helps us to change. How about you? Are there any changes you need to make?
Tomorrow, it is my hope to wrap up this study, so until then, stay safe and God bless,