A Bible study at Church not too long ago was focused a lot on the subject of hypocrites. Some of the central Scriptures cited were taken from Matthew 23. For the purposes of this post, I would like to focus on them as we reflect on the hypocrisy we see not just in the world — but in our own lives, as well.
To begin with, let’s look at how the dictionary defines the word hypocrite: A person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives (courtesy of WordWeb).
13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.
15 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing. But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing. But if anyone swears by the gift on it he is bound by the oath.’ 19 You are blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too!
27 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have participated with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 By saying this you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! 33 You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? – Matthew 23:13-32 (NET)
I certainly see a lot of legalism in many Churches today. I have partaken in some myself over the years. Sometimes, the very things Jesus said to call out the hypocrites of the day are used by “modern day Pharisees.” It is all too easy to wield the hammer of Old Testament law when it suits us and disregard what doesn’t. Many Christians are relegated to second class members of the Christian community, often for something in their past that somehow isn’t covered under the blood? Many may say that all of our sins are, but reality doesn’t prove that to be the case oftentimes. It is too easy to mix works in with God’s grace — but it never works and is a breeding ground for the type of hypocrisy our Lord spoke against in Matthew 23. I sometimes wonder how accepted He would be in many of our modern churches, don’t you?