Summary: We need to see that the primary problem of the Pharisees was that they were too religious. Some people go bad because of their vices, and others because of their virtues.
Human nature loves to magnify the minute and give significance to the insignificant by
the simple method of stretching the truth. An army cook, for example, feed a mob of
men with scrambled eggs, and then he sat down and wrote to his girl friend: "Dearest,
for two hours shells have been bursting all around me." What he said was literally true,
for egg shells were bursting all around him, but his true statement conveyed a picture
that was not true at all. He used the truth to tell a lie. The best lies are conveyed by the
truth, for this kind of line is technically, or legalistically, not lying, but legitimate. If you
work at it, you can get so clever that you can lie quite consistently, and always be telling
It's like the pastor who received a poorly baked pie from one of his members. He
threw it into the garbage, and the next time he saw her he said, "I can assure you a pie
like yours does not last long around our house." He is matched, if not out done, by the
pastor who bought a new boat and named it visitation. When someone called the
parsonage his wife could say that he was not home, but out on visitation. Unfortunately,
these are not just jokes. They are real problems that all Christians face.
Jamie Buckingham was one of the great Christian authors of our day. He had books
selling into the millions. He was also one of the biggest Christian liars I have ever read.
He tells of how he got started as a boy, and lying got him out of so much trouble that he
should have punished for that he couldn't stop. He flushed rags down the commode in
college, and flooded the whole second floor of the dorm. He ruined many students
clothes, but he lied his way out of it. He went into the ministry and was very successful.
In fact, he became pastor of one of the largest Southern Baptist Churches in South
Carolina. But he could not stop lying. His self-image compelled him to lie about his
church; its size; the attendance, and youth group.
He could not tolerate to be criticized or seen in a poor light of any kind, and so he
exaggerated and twisted the facts to suit his purpose. By the time he was 35 he had been
asked to leave two churches, and his marriage was going down hill fast. Finally the crisis
became so great that he was going to lose everything. He came to the end of his rope,
and for the first time he confessed he was a liar. He told of all his fears that compelled
him to lie. He experienced forgiveness, and he gained liberty from the need to lie. He
went on to become a man greatly used of God in communicating the truth.
Jesus knew that one of the great battles of life for believers would be the battle to
speak the truth. Every source of power in man is also a source of corruption. Power
does corrupt, and so Jesus has been dealing with each of the sources of power in us, and
warning us of the danger of abusing these powers. He is trying to prevent this abuse, and
keep the power functioning in a way God intended. He has dealt with the power of spirit,
the anger and hostility that leads to the breakdown in relationships, and, thus, to murder.
He has dealt with the power of stubbornness that leads to unnecessary suffering. And
then the power of sex that leads to lust and adultery. And then to the power of
superiority that leads to abuse of one's mate and divorce. Now Jesus deals with the
power of speech that leads to lying and deception.
Everyone of these powers used rightly are blessings, but used wrongly they damage
you and your relationship to God and man. Everyone of them used as God intended is a
source of energy for love. Everyone of them used unlovingly is a source of energy for
evil. We see it confirmed in the Sermon On The Mount that sin and evil are primarily
the abuse and misuse of energy that is good in itself. Speech is a source of power that
makes man what he is in superiority to the animals. Speech is good, but there is such a
temptation to misuse this power. The two areas of life where the temptation is greatest
are politics and religion. Both tempt people to develop a clever and complex
gobbledegook that can muddy the waters of communication.
The realm of religion is full of hocus pocus jargon. Jesus is not saying anybody can be
too religious, for it is impossible to love God or man to much, and this is the essence of