Summary: This message looks at the overall theme of Matthew 23: hypocrisy.

CHRISTIANS ARE SUCH HYPOCRITES: Hypocrisy is not practicing what you preach.

- Matthew 23:3.

- This is major accusation from Jesus. Here is Matthew 23, it shows up in vv. 3, 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29.

- There is a lot of truth to the accusation for the way we behave as the church today. We need to heed Jesus’ words because this is a serious problem and Jesus indicates He is very bothered by it.

- Sometimes we presume that because we talk about God a lot that that means we’re on the inside.

- But in talking about hypocrisy, Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6).

- Talking a lot about God can just set the stage for hypocrisy.

- Some examples of hypocrisy that Jesus pointed to (these are some verses in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus mentioned hypocrisy):

a. In giving.

- Matthew 6:2.

- Jesus says: Give in secret, not to impress people.

- An example of our failure: Churches doing plaques within churches or naming stuff after people.

- An example of our failure: We say the most important thing in the world now is the Kingdom, but our checkbook says it’s the American Dream.

- An example of our failure: Jesus says not to let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, but we use tithing envelopes so we can get a tax deduction.

b. In prayer.

- Matthew 6:5.

- Jesus says: Pray in secret, not to impress people.

- An example of our failure: We say that “prayer changes things,” but treat prayer as a tool of last resort and as a ceremonial addition to our worship.

c. In fasting.

- Matthew 6:16.

- Jesus says: Don’t manipulate your face to make others impressed with your piety.

- An example of our failure: We deliberately ignore the teaching of Jesus and don’t fast, yet we’re meticulous about saying grace at every meal.

d. In judging others.

- Matthew 7:5; Luke 6:42.

- Jesus says: Know that you’ve got stuff in your own life to clean up first before cleaning up someone else.

- An example of our failure: We say we’re all sinners saved by grace, but we’re quick to point out how bad others’ sin is.

- In all four of these examples, we don’t practice what we preach and do what we do for the right reasons.

- Instead, we talk a good game of being righteous, but we do the things we say are wrong (porn, gossip) and don’t do what we say is good (prayer, Bible reading, forgiveness).

- What will transform America? A good starting place would be Christians actually acting like Jesus.

- Some humility, transparency, confession would be a good start.

- Pretending is a killer.

- Christians should be the most willing to admit to sins and failures, but instead we work hard to maintain a public persona of piety.

- Statistics on evangelical v. the population at large on major moral issues and how our behavior doesn’t differ.

JESUS' FAVORITE IMAGE OF HYPOCRISY: Jesus often referred to hypocrisy as “yeast.”

- Matthew 16:6, 11, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1.

- It’s in Luke 12:1 that Jesus says that yeast is hypocrisy.

- It’s in Matthew 16:12 that He says the yeast is the teaching.

- So they’re hypocrisy has to do, again, with not doing what they were teaching.

- Ways that the analogy works:

a. Yeast is hidden.

b. Yeast puffs up the bread.

c. It takes little yeast to work.

d. It makes you look more substantial.


- What I’ve done in this section is dig through some of the hypocrisy references that aren’t in Matthew 23 or the Sermon on the Mount and unpack the core issue that Jesus is bringing out in each one.

1. Tradition over commandment.

- Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23.

- These two references are parallel passages. There are basically two examples of tradition over commandment that show up here within this passage:

a. Not washing your hands before eating, which Jesus uses to lead into a discussion of how it’s not what goes into you (your food) but what comes out of you (your words) that defiles.

b. Using tradition to take money that should be used to honor your mother and father and instead use it to fulfill your religious obligations.

- A big part of the challenge of tradition is that we unthinkingly do what’s been handed down to us without stopping to ask if this is the best we can do for God.

- The word “hypocrite” shows up in Matthew 15:7.

- Examples of this today:

a. Dinner table: Saying grace over fasting.

b. Many church meetings on Sunday to ruin any chance of a Sabbath rest.

2. Tradition over mercy.

- Luke 13:10-17.

- Here we have a woman who has been crippled for 18 years and Jesus heals her on the Sabbath, bringing the wrath of the synagogue ruler. Jesus argues that if we’d have compassion on an animal on the Sabbath to untie it and lead it to water, shouldn’t this child of God be physically untied and set free on the Sabbath?

- The word “hypocrite” shows up in v. 15.

- Examples of this today:

a. AIDS crisis.

b. Churches won’t have the money to help many people because the way we’ve long structured church focuses most of our money on buildings and pastors’ salaries, leaving precious little available to help people.

3. Victory over truth.

- Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17.

- Here Jesus is questioned about whether it’s right to pay taxes to Caesar. The key detail for us is that it’s the Pharisees and the Herodians that come together to question Him. These two groups were mortal enemies, having contradictory views of the Roman presence in Palestine (among other issues).

- They come together because they’re both threatened by Jesus. If Jesus answers, “Pay the taxes” then the Pharisees can say to everyone, “Look, Jesus doesn’t really want Israel to be free again!” If Jesus answers, “Don’t pay the taxes,” then the Herodians can say to the Roman government, “Look, this Jesus is calling for insurrection and disobedience to Rome!”

- Jesus, knowing their attempt to trap Him, doesn’t give them what they’re hoping for.

- The point is that they were more interesting in achieving victory over an enemy (Jesus) than finding the truth. Jesus’ answer was interesting to them only to the extent that it furthered their plans, not at all as a way for them to understand more of what God is doing in the world.

- The reference to hypocrisy shows up in Matthew 22:18 and Mark 12:15.

- Examples of this today:

a. Church fights with each side attempting to destroy the other (rather than trying to discover through prayer and Bible study what God thinks).

- In such situations, it’s usually laughable that everyone would sit down and try to find out God’s will. Instead, each side has its predetermined views and uses all the opportunities it can (both legitimate and illegitimate) to try to win.

b. The political alliance between evangelicals and Catholics.

- In recent years, the two groups have begun working together in an attempt to win “the culture war.”

- It’s significant to note that their partnership was not born of common theological conviction or having achieved renewed spiritual brotherhood. Rather, it came from the fact that both hated “those who are destroying America” worse than they hated each other. I think more theological discussion is a great idea, but the point here is that recent friendship has not been born from that source.

c. Arguments among people of different denominations.

4. Asking for signs over being in tune with God.

- Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 12:54-56.

- These are parallel passages.

- In Matthew 16:1, Jesus is asked for a sign. Jesus goes on (in both passages) to say that the Pharisees know how to read the evening sky, but they don’t know how to interpret the present time.

- They ask for some dramatic sign from heaven rather than being in tune with God enough to see where and how He is moving all around them.

- The “hypocrites” reference is in Luke 12:56.

- Example of this today:

a. People claiming to be Christians will face a difficult choice and beg God to give them a sign of which way they should go. All the time they’re begging Him, the answer is right in the Scripture or would be obvious to someone who is moderately spiritually aware.

- A big part of not being hypocritical would be to pursue the right side of all four of these issues.