The Heart of Hypocrisy

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)

Our verses in Matthew today, 27 & 28, are another reflection in the previous lesson that we had last week on verse 25 & 26. Again Jesus is reiterating His point that we are preoccupied with dressing up our public image in order to cover the inner image of our sin and iniquity which resides in our hearts. The question that then comes to my mind is why is Jesus restating this point again with the scribes and Pharisees? There must then be a deeper thought here for us to explore. Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture means all, so there is something more for us here to discover.

There is a symbol of death here in the use of “whitewashed tomb.” The tomb houses the dead and death and sin are related in that sin is the cause of death. God had warned Adam that to disobey Him would result in death. (Genesis 2:16:17) There is a price for our disobedience to God’s Word and that is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) God hates sin and the magnitude of the sin in our life is not completely understood by us until we balance the truth of God’s wrath against the gracious and merciful gift of God’s love towards us. We are all sinners in the sight of God and therefore we cannot approach God and God cannot be in our presence. There is one exception to this truth and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the bridge between God and man that we both can exist together. The grace of God is not the ability to reign in sin but is the necessity for us to reign in righteousness. “So that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21) The trap of sinful hypocrisy is that there are many who have not progressed from the physical life into the spiritual life. They pay more to the outward appetences in order to look righteous while ignoring the spiritual life that is to become righteous through Jesus Christ.

The outcome of spiritual denial is that we appear to be as the whitewashed tomb. Clean and pleasant to look at in remembrance of the one whose body resides within. The appearance of those is pious but the reality is that in the inside they are dead with sin. The true appearance that people will be drawn to comes from a purity of the inside, a spiritual saintliness committed to the Lord and our Savior.

Only one can sit on the throne of our heart, either the Lord or the adversary. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24) The Christian that claims to follow Christ but not placing Him on the throne of the heart over time will numb to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. A life which remains in the wilderness drives one further into the error of self-righteousness. We see the warning in Paul’s letter to Timothy. “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5) While this passage was written as a warning for ungodliness in the last days we are most certainly living in the last days.

  1. A. Carson writes in “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.” “The point Jesus is making is not that the scribes and Pharisees were deliberate and self-conscious hypocrites, but that in their scrupulous regulations they appeared magnificently virtuous but were actually contaminating the people.” This is the exact meaning of Jesus in His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees. As I reflect on my own short comings and with that perfect sight of hind sight I can see the greatness of the errors of my past. Because my mind is too often not eternally focused I have felt little consequence for the sins of the day that I commit while projecting a public appearance of righteousness. My lack of far sighted truth makes it easy for me to fall into the temptations of the day without seeing the consequences that will come. The effectiveness of this is that unwittingly I have placed a bad influence on other people, family, friends and associates.

I think that I, like the scribes and Pharisees, did not intentionally set out to deceive anyone but because of my self-protectiveness against appearing bad that is what I accomplished. I think that is a problem for everyone and it is one that we all need to be aware of, the heart of Hypocrisy. We cannot fully submit to Jesus if we do not let Him fully sit on the throne of our heart. If we live more for the outward appearances than the inward purity, then we are not fully trusting God and have limited His access to transform us from the inside out.

Our sanctification is not an instant process. We are to grow into the image of Christ by much prayer, study of His Word and the faith to live in His Word and through His Word. It is the process of renewing the mind to a like mindedness of Jesus Christ. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) We are to die to self and choose to live in the light of the truth of our Lord and Master. The day of salvation has come for us, or is here now, but either way we must choose as Joshua wrote, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

The truth is that all will bow before the Lord, the righteous and the unrighteous. The question is do we do that now or then at the throne of Judgment. God is the Lord of all and all men are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Paul explains this in his letter to the Romans. “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

Are we dead and powerless inside living in the darkness of sin? Are we allowing that darkness to influence others to life in the contemporary thought of this word that if others are doing it then it must be alright? Is the Hypocrisy of our life causing others to fall into the pit and forever be lost? I pray not. Let us then become more transparent that others may clearly see the light of His truth shine through us. As our Lord said, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 14, 2014

Durant Bible College

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