Summary: Jesus gives us the profile of a hypocrite.
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!