What’s the big deal?
I find the Word fascinating! As I read, I wonder why Jesus chose to do or say what He did. Nothing about Him was uncalculated or inconsequential. EVERYTHING had a purpose. So when I finish reading some of the “woes” (a primary exclamation of grief Jesus used against the religious leaders) in Luke 11:42-53, it is interesting to see what happens next.
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Luke 12:1
I cannot imagine the stress of that moment- when so many people had gathered that they began to trample one another. Yet at that moment, Jesus does not choose to address the growing crowd but instead, He chose to speak first to His disciples!
Who does that?! Why wouldn’t He feel the weight of the moment? Wasn’t the primary issue the restless crowd needing attention? Why would He push “pause” on them and take time to speak a warning to His own disciples?
The Greater Concern
The origin of the word “hypocrisy” dates back to Greek which means “to play a part” (Google). Strong’s goes even further and describes it as deceit or pretense.
What this teaches me is that as pressing as the need was of a bulging crowd trampling upon one another, the greater threat that needed addressing was the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. Their example paraded before the entire nation of Isreal should have been very different as religious leaders. Jesus was bringing to light their false witness as role models in the Jewish faith.
I like the Message translation of Luke 12:1-3.
By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.
Not only was Jesus warning of the deceit from the Pharisees but He was also teaching the disciples that this phoniness can easily happen to them. It is much easier to “play the part” as opposed to “walk the walk”. The outer witness can easily outperform the inner condition.
The religious leaders had turned the purpose of faith into performing certain practices. They over-emphasized the outer behaviors in those of Jewish faith while neglecting the most important matters of the heart.
Jesus’ Contrasting Example
Jesus came on the scene with a completely different emphasis as it pertained to faith. In the previous passage of Scripture (Luke 11:39-42), Christ rebukes the Pharisees specifically about this issue. He taught by Word and by example that what mattered most was what transpired in minds and hearts.
Jesus was often at odds with the leaders because He was not cooperating with THEIR religious system. They found fault because He had a different agenda that compelled Him as explained in Matthew 9:35.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
And again in Luke 4:17-19.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus came offering something very different than the Pharisees. He did not care how He looked to others as He sought to do what was right by God and people. His own personal gain or loss was inconsequential. The motive of Christ was always placing the good of others ahead of His own whereas the Pharisees sought to promote themselves. He did the true work of God while the religious leaders only appeared to do so.
What was the real goal?
In essence, Jesus was teaching about holiness. Being holy isn’t achieved by outward practices but by inner attitudes.
According to Strong’s, holiness is being pure, blameless, and upright. It is an inner condition of a person, not an outward “act” as with the Pharisees in their phoniness.
Hypocrisy pretends to be holy. It is faking uprightness in order to appear “Christian”. The inner thought-life and motives of the heart reveal the falsehood. When Jesus was referring to what was whispered behind closed doors becoming known He was referring to the gossip and condemnation of others that can be all too common among “church folk”.Hypocrisy pretends to be holy. It is faking genuine Christianity which is loving God and others more than ourselves. Click To Tweet
When Jesus came, He drastically contrasted the religious norm found in typical leaders. He was Holy, pure in His intentions with others and as it reflected the Father. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we are also given the same mandate.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
What are the dangers of hypocrisy?
Hypocrisy harms more than just the guilty party. It has a way of reverberating through the lives of others.
Have you ever experienced the other side of a person who claims to be what they are not? Someone who is a “believer” yet they bear little resemblance to Christ? Someone who tears down others behind their backs?
They could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your Bible study leader, your pastor, even your own family member. They could be you or me.
Could it be our own hypocrisy that is driving the next generation from our churches? What damage is done when we portray self-righteousness yet our children listen to our critique and condemnation of others daily? What value of faith is eroded when we allow our family schedules to keep us from weekly church attendance or growing in our faith through Bible studies, fellowship groups, or serving in the church? Is it any wonder why so many walk away from God when they see His church “playing the part” of Christianity?
6 Ways Hypocrisy Brings Harm
- It compromises our own spiritual health.
- It undermines the faith of the next generation.
- It weakens the ministry of the church.
- It hinders the advancement of the Gospel.
- It shames the name of Christ.
- It enables the schemes of the devil.
All in all, it affects us, our children, our families, our churches, and our communities. From those we love to those we don’t know at all, hypocrisy causes devastating consequences.
What’s our takeaway?
I think Christ is calling His people to be careful of what they claim because eventually, the truth will come out. What we are on the inside cannot be contained forever. If we claim Christ, then our lives should clearly remind others of Him.
Holiness fights against hypocrisy. It is fostered when we pay attention to what is going on inside of us, examining our own thoughts and attitudes, to see if they are Christlike. We grow in our holiness as we ask God to examine us, to see to the offensive way in us and to lead us in the path of righteousness for His namesake. (Psalm 139:23-24)Holiness is our weapon of choice against the religious trap of hypocrisy. Click To Tweet
The Pharisees were being exposed for condemning people for their sin when they had just as much sin of their own. If we sit around judging others behind closed doors like they did, neither are we living up to our call to holiness. Jesus reminds us to be more concerned with our inner being than our outward “churchy” persona. Maybe if we could examine ourselves more than we do others then we would grow in our holiness.
Christ left people loved and served at the conclusion of His time with them. They were better off than before.
Can the same be said of us?