Summary: The teachers of the law looked like men who honoured God, but Jesus saw behind their masks.
UNMASKING THE BELIEVER
A rather well-built young man saw an advertisement for a job at the zoo. When he went there, he was horrified to find that the only job they had open was for somebody to play the part of a gorilla. A lot of children were coming in the next few days, and the zoo, having no gorilla, needed someone to impersonate one. Since money was tight, the man decided he would take the job. He arrived before sunrise, got into the gorilla outfit, and slipped into his cage. Finally, day dawned, and the children came. All he had to do was pensively pace the floor, look rather adept at swinging between trees, and eat the peanuts and bananas whenever they were fed to him. After eight or ten hours, he became thoroughly exhausted. The bananas were getting the better of him. As he swung from one tree to another, rather nauseated, he slipped and fell into the lion’s den next door. He shouted, "Help! Help!" The lion leaned over and said, "If you don’t shut up, we’ll both lose our jobs."
What is the moral of the story? Just because it looks like a gorilla and swings like a gorilla doesn’t necessarily mean that it is one. The same applies in the church. It may look like a Christian and sound like a Christian but that does not necessarily mean that it is one. Too often people wear masks which conceal their true identity. Jesus had very little tolerance for this.
Matt. 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
Theologian Karl Rahner once said: "The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable." The Pharisees looked very much like men who honored God but their behavior showed that this was just a mask. Jesus points to 3 things which revealed their true identity.
1. Hypocrisy (vs. 3) – do not practice what they preach
1 Tim 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
It is not enough to simply know and preach the truth, you must live it as well. The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word HUPOKRITES which means an actor on a stage. It means saying one thing but really living another. It is looking like an angel in church on Sunday but living like the devil the rest of the week. Hypocrisy does not mean struggling with sin. It is saying you don’t. If a person does not pretend to be perfect then they are not a hypocrite when they are not. It is when we put on a righteous act for others to see in public but then do the opposite in secret.
A woman got on an elevator in an office building. There was just one other person in the elevator, a handsome man. She pushed the button for her floor and then casually looked over at the man and suddenly had one of those moments of recognition shock. Could it be? The man looked exactly like Robert Redford, the movie star. Her gaze was almost involuntarily riveted on him. Finally, she blurted out, "Are you the real Robert Redford?" He smiled and said, "Only when I’m alone!" Who are you when you are alone?
Do you practice what you preach? Does your life and doctrine line up? Remember that you are an ambassador of Jesus Christ – you represent the one you serve. That means people will evaluate Jesus by our behavior. I once did counseling with a woman in Kuwait. The first things she said to me is “I hate Canadians”. She had met someone once and now judged the entire nation of Canada by the single person. If you call yourself a Christian then remember that you represent the person by whose name you are called – Jesus Christ.
A Christian baroness, living Kenya, told of a young national who was employed as her houseboy. After three months he asked the baroness to give him a letter of reference to a friendly sheik some miles away. She didn’t want the houseboy to leave just when he had learned the routine of the household, and offered to increase his pay. Money was not the issue. He had decided he would become either a Christian or a Muslim. He had worked for a Christian for three months and now wanted to work for a Muslim. Then he would decide which way of life he would follow. The baroness was stunned as she recalled her many blemishes in her dealings with the houseboy. She could only exclaim, ‘Why didn’t you tell me at the beginning’!