This Sunday and the next, we're going to take a look at two problem people. We refer to them as problem people because Jesus had a problem with them; and He let them know it! We're talking about the hypocrite and the legalist. (READ TEXT)
Jesus addressed a Pharisee and the experts in the law. In so doing, He gives us the profile of a hypocrite and a legalist. As we said, these were two types of people Jesus had a problem with. And if you're the type of person Jesus has a problem with, you've got a big problem!
None of us should want to be either of these persons. So, as we look at how Jesus described them, let's do some self-inventory, and see if we need to make some corrections. Today, our focus is verses 37-44 as we consider the profile of a hypocrite. Note the context:
The Pharisee was surprised Jesus didn't wash His hands before eating. This wasn't a matter of cleanliness but of ceremonial law. The law of the Pharisees said one must wash his hands before a meal and between courses. Every detail was laid out. Large stone pots were kept for this purpose to make sure the water didn't somehow become unclean. The amount used was to be at least enough to fill one and a half egg shells.
First, the water must be poured over the hands beginning at the tips of the fingers and running down to the wrist. Then the palm of the hand was cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other into it. Finally, water must again be poured over the hands, this time beginning at the wrist and running down to the fingertips.
Jesus responded to the surprise of the Pharisee at His not washing his hands, by speaking of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees; and in so doing, tells us what a hypocrite looks like.
1. The heart of the hypocrite is impure - vs. 39-40
Jesus said if the Pharisee was to truly be right with God, he should give as much attention to cleansing his heart as he did cleansing his hands.
“Our Lord points out the absurdity of attaching such importance to the mere cleansing of the body, while the cleansing of the heart is overlooked. He reminds his host that God looks at the inward part of us, the hidden man of the heart, far more than at our skins.” - J. C. Ryle
In his autobiography, Be Myself, Warren Wiersbe writes about his first church building project as a young pastor in Indiana. He and the church's building committee were working with an architect named Frank Schutt. At one of their meetings, Wiersbe says he learned a good lesson about architecture and theology, something he hadn’t been taught at seminary. In the meeting he asked Mr. Schutt, “Why do we need such an expensive, high ceiling in the
auditorium? We’re not building a cathedral. Why not just build an auditorium with a flat room and then put a church facade in the front of the building?” In a quiet voice, Mr. Schutt replied, ‘Pastor, the building you construct reflects what a church is and what a church does. You don't use facades on churches to fool people. That's for carnival sideshows. The outside and the inside must agree.”
The hypocrite has more in his show window than in his warehouse. He's one person on the outside and another inside. What he presents to others isn't what he is within. His heart is not pure.
2. The motives of the hypocrite aren't right - v. 41
The idea behind giving what is inside to the poor speaks of motive. What counts is not what you give but why you give. Jesus said the Pharisees gave with a wrong motive.
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward, But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” - Matthew 6:5-6 (CSB)
Rather than being concerned only with what God thinks, the hypocrite is more concerned with what others think; and they mistakenly confuse the praise of men with the praise of God.
3. The focus of the hypocrite is small - v. 42a
A hypocrite focuses on things of minor importance; while ignoring things of major importance.
“Blind guides! You strain your water so you won't accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” - Matthew 23:24 (NLT)
Leviticus 11:4, 23 tell us both the gnat and the camel were considered unclean. So Jesus was telling them that as admirable as it was to try to get the little things right, that didn't excuse neglect of the big things!
“This is the heart of hypocrisy: keeping the letter of the law in one or two minor areas of obedience, while at the same time neglecting the big things that matter more to God.” - Philip Ryken
When we focus on minor things, we can be so obsessive, we look silly!
ln "Twelve Weird Items in Church Bylaws," Thom Rainer says, "Sometimes reading a church's bylaws is like taking a trip to the twilight zone. Some are lengthy, very lengthy. Some are irrelevant. Some are unreadable. And others are weird, really weird. Here's my twelve favorites: 1) No one can bring a colored drink to church, especially red Kool-Aid.2) An active member is defined as one who gives at least one penny a year. 3) There will be specific guidelines regarding the church van (but the church doesn't own a van). 4) Men serving communion are required to wear a coat and tie. 5) The church has to have a minimum of five deacons (but the church only has 20 members). 6) No one can sell cassettes on church grounds. 7) No one is allowed to bring glitter to church. 8) No church member can be a part of a secret society. 9) No church member can drink alcohol except during the Lord's Supper. 10) No one can sell paintings on church grounds. 11) Members cannot have assigned pews. 12) No one can come to church with diarrhea.
A hypocrite often gets things out of proportion.
4. The obedience of the hypocrite is selective -v. 42b
Jesus said that while the Pharisees were careful to pay their tithes; they nevertheless neglected other areas which required obedience to God.
"It has never ceased to amaze me that we Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet be almost totally pagan in the day in, day out guts of our business lives and never even realize it." - Keith Miller
A hypocrite thinks their selective obedience excuses their disobedience; but selective obedience is absolute disobedience.
5. The desire of the hypocrite is selfish -v.43
The chief seats faced the congregation. The Pharisees loved them because they gave them honor from men. They loved greetings in the marketplaces because they could honor each other. These self determined standards were how they measured their goodness.
"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." - 2 Corinthians 10:12b (NIV)
A man had his boss over for dinner in his home. The boss was rude, loud, and arrogant. As the meal progressed, the man's little boy kept looking at his boss. Finally, the man's boss asked his son, "Why have you been staring at me all night?" the boy replied, “Well, my daddy said that you are a self-made man." "That's right!" the boss said. "I was just wondering," said the boy, "If you are a self made man, why did you make yourself to be like this?'
A hypocrite is more interested in what he can make of himself in the eyes of others than in what God can make of him.
6. The influence of the hypocrite is destructive - v. 44
"Anyone in the open field who touches a person who has been killed by the sword or has died, or who even touches a human bone, or a grave, will be uncleanfor seven days.u - Numbers 19:16 (CSB)
Our hypocrisy, is a negative influence on others. The filth of hypocrisy rubs off and keeps them from being clean before God. In Ancient Israel, six cities were founded as 66cities of refuge." The law of Moses declared that if a man killed another man, without malice of premeditation, he could flee to one of those cities and live there free without any harm coming to him until the death of the high priest. Then they were free to leave the city of refuge and return home without fear of revenge. The rabbis have an interesting tradition about the cities of refuge. They say that once each year, the roads leading to those cities were repaired and cleaned of any obstacles and stones so that the man fleeing for his life would have nothing that would hinder him on his way to the refuge.
We are like cities of refuge. We're to let those under threat of death know that Jesus, our great high priest, has died so they might be free! But there needs to be nothing in our lives to keep others from Christ and freedom. We need to ask God to reveal and rool out any hypocrisy.
Sometimes I shut the door on all the world and go alone to that most secret place where there is only God. Just God and me. Then together we go over subtle acts, mistakes and small hypocrisies of mine. I strip myself from shams and shackles free, and stand aghast at my duplicity. - Dr. Clinton C. Cox