THE CURSE OF HYPOCRISY
A factor that can be a hindrance to the growth of the church today is hypocrisy on the part of those who profess to be Christians. The Greek word "hypocrite" is taken from "stageplayers" who ACT the part of others or speak not their own sentiments but the sentiments of others. In the New Testament "hypocrite" usually means those who dissemble or hide their real sentiments and assume or express feelings other than their own, those who for purposes of showing off or gain or applause put on the appearance of being religious to gain the respect of others. To put it bluntly, hypocrisy is merely self-deception on the part of the hypocrite. He or she may fool others, but such is not fooling God, not for a moment.
In the 23rd chapter of Matthew Jesus was upbraiding those religious scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites for making a show of outward humility but who were in reality only "play acting". Jesus pronounced eight woes upon them. My question is: can we apply those teachings to people of our day? Yes, they can be applied to anyone who is using religion as a front regardless of the reason.
I personally believe the condition which we in America find ourselves is a direct result of hypocrisy. It may surface in many forms such as rebellion against authority, young people's attitudes toward the so-called establishment, in their disobedience to their parents, etc., etc. But with whom is the fault eventually going to lie? With the hypocrites and with those who rebel against them by going into every evil practice you can imagine because they see the hypocrisy and see right through the hypocrites' veneer. Jesus saw it in those whom He was upbraiding, and don't think for a moment that our younger generation can't see it in us of this generation. They can and have. As a result we have all the different troubles we are now faced with. And in most instances we are to blame for not setting the right example in all sincerity before our children. There are no doubt some exceptions to this. It may be you have tried to set the proper example, but they got in with the wrong crowd. This is why we must teach our children the proper values while they are young and set the proper example for them to follow. But if we are hypocrites, we shouldn't be too surprised if they grow up in rebellion to us and to our values.
But let's take the eight woes which Jesus pronounced upon those in the 23rd chapter of Matt. and apply them to the hypocrites of our time.
I. Woe Number One.
The first woe is found in verse 13 ("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").
Is it possible to apply this to existing conditions today? I know of more than a few cases where those who were supposed to be in the church dis-fellowshipped the most faithful and kept the most unfaithful, and because of this those who were dis-fellowshipped gradually quit the church altogether. Thus we can see the parallel. Neither shall enter the portals of eternal life with God and Christ.
II. Woe Number Two.
The second woe is pronounced in verse 14 ("Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widow's houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation").
And there are just such hypocrites around today - people who will pull all kinds of crooked business deals for gain and then get up in church and pray long, flowery, sanctimonious prayers. Such is an abomination to God!
III. Woe Number Three.
The third woe is found in verse 15 ("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 two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves").
How many religions this embraces! Because of false doctrines and the teaching of men's opinions rather than the plain Gospel message, those embracing their concepts are made two-fold more the children of hell even than those who teach them.
IV. Woe Number Four.
The fourth woe is found in verses 16-22 ("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 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 therein").
This is dealing with swearing by an oath, whether by the temple, the gold offered, the altar, or the throne of God. The Jews had a time distinguishing which was more important: the temple, the gift, the altar, or heaven. The essential thing in an oath was calling God to witness their sincerity in making the oath. There is that word "sincerity", the only type of worship that God will accept. A hypocrite's gifts will mean nothing either to God or to himself. We as Christians today are to offer our bodies a living sacrifice to God, holy, well-pleasing to Him, which is our spiritual service, and it must be without hypocrisy (Rom. 12:1).
V. Woe Number Five.
The fifth woe is found in verses 23, 24 ("Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, 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").
How often I have heard first principles preached (that is faith, repentance, confession, and baptism), but how few times I have heard preaching on living a consistent Christian life after conversion. Both should be properly stressed; neither should be neglected. The stability of the Christian life is based upon the living of that life as God has commanded. Either without the other is worthless.
VI. Woe Number Six.
The sixth woe is found in verses 25, 26 ("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 Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also").
This is, as I have been trying to point out, the focal point in this whole issue. We may appear Christians by our outward acts, but what about the inward man? Is it pure and holy as Christ would have it be? Or does He see us as we actually are? God looks upon the heart of man and knows (Rom. 8:27).
VII. Woe Number Seven.
The seventh woe is much like the sixth; it is found in verses 27, 28 ("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").
How many people do you know who profess Christianity and appear outwardly beautiful but are inwardly or spiritually dead? "Even so ye also appear outwardly righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." This is as Paul told Timothy in I Tim. 5:6 "But she that liveth in (giveth herself to) pleasure is dead while she yet liveth."
VIII. Woe Number Eight.
The eighth woe to the hypocrites is found in verses 29-36 ("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. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation").
Here Jesus is dealing with their self-righteous attitude, how that if they had lived in the days of their fathers, they said they would not have killed the prophets. Jesus issued one of the most stinging of rebukes upon them, calling them serpents and offspring of vipers, telling them He did not see how they could escape the damnation of hell. He told them He would send them prophets and wise men and scribes but that they would kill some of them, scourge some, and persecute some from city to city. This they did. This hypocrites do unto Christ and the apostles by trampling underfoot the blood of the covenant wherewith we were sanctified and counting it an unholy thing, doing despite to the Spirit of grace. Heb. 10:29
This is not all the Bible has to say about hypocrites, but this does get right to the heart of the matter. How can I tell if I'm a hypocrite? The same way you can tell if you are a Christian. "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:16). By looking at the fruit I'm bearing, I can tell if I'm being hypocritical in my Christian life or not, and so can you. Gal. 5:16-25 gives us the comparison between the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. If you are not familiar with that passage of Scripture, turn to it and read it. Then honestly and sincerely compare your life with that part that most fits your life. if you find yourself in the wrong category, then repent and set things right between you and God (I John 1:9).
Yes, I believe hypocrisy to be our curse, and I believe any honest person will agree with me. If we are and remain hypocrites, the woes are ours now and for eternity. To the young people who have turned off Christ because of the hypocrisy of some professing Christian, I say this to you. Why don't you try to do better than they? Why have a whole eternity in the same place with them? You are simply "cutting off your nose to spite your face", as the old saying goes.
Young people, you are the future America. Whether our country stands or falls depends upon you and your attitudes. If you hate hypocrisy, then see to it that you set the proper example before your children, and they will not be able to say, "Hypocrisy was our curse".
Hypocrisy, or play-acting the part of a Christian, is a most condemning thing today. It is affecting our young people as well as members and non-members of the church. It will ultimately destroy us as a nation unless we face up to it. God is not mocked. We may get by with our hypocrisy here on this earth the little time we are here, but sooner or later it will catch up with us (if not now, certainly in Judgment). It is time for each of us to examine himself or herself, and wherever we find hypocrisy in our lives we should get rid of it now. Either we destroy it, or it will destroy us. The choice is ours.
Much more could be said on this subject, but our Saviour used these same verses as one of the most stinging rebukes to the hypocrites of His generation, and I pray that these brief remarks will cause some of us to stop and re-evaluate our lives.
Are we really Christians or just play-acting the part?
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