November 5, 2017. Matthew 23, Luke 20-21.
Hypocrites! How often is this term used to describe individuals in a church? Most of us have probably heard the statement, “I don’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites.” As we see today, hypocrites among God’s people is nothing new. Jesus, addressing the “religious” scribes and Pharisees, calls them hypocrites seven times. In doing so He provides examples of their hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”
Matthew 23:28 “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Here is where most people are wrong when it comes to the church being full of hypocrites. Looking at the outward actions of church members they may see actions of sin but these actions do not necessarily define a person as a hypocrite. That church member, who they point to as a hypocrite, may simply be a person who struggles with sin. Even the apostle Paul struggled with sin in his life. (Romans 7:14-25) What Jesus shows is how a hypocrite is one who looks good on the outside, but what is going on in their hearts and desires is self-indulgence and lawlessness.
To individuals who condemn believers as hypocrites it is often because the believer has done something that has dirtied the outside of the cup. They have done something that does not appear righteous. But in their heart, the believer desired not to do a wrong, but they stumbled and did what they desired not to do. The stumble is sad, but it is not being a hypocrite.
One who is not a hypocrite is one who cares about the weightier matters. In their heart is the desire for justice, or what is right, mercy or kindness and faith or faithfulness. That is how they desire to live their life and how they desire to be toward God and others. As a result most of their actions will be actions of justice, mercy and faith, apart from the occasional stumble. That should be the plan we have for our daily life on the inside because that is what will then also be seen on the “outside.”