Posts Tagged 'Hyopcrites'

Plastic Plants and Plastic People

 

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Luke 11:37-44

 

Jesus rarely turned down an invitation to lunch, even if it came from a Pharisee.  When our Lord ignored tradition – the Rabbinic tradition of washing before eating – His hosts were incensed.  This prompted Jesus to issue a series of “woes” or denunciations.  Many of the things He said about the Pharisees and the experts in the Law here in Luke sound a lot like the things He said of these same groups in Matthew 23.  But we are looking at two different situations and two different occasions.  The incident in Matthew took place during the Passion Week, and here this little luncheon at the Pharisee’s house took place while He was in Perea on His way to Jerusalem.  Still, it’s late in Jesus’ ministry and things weren’t as easy as they were in the early years.  Relationships with the religious elite were deteriorating.  His teachings were pointed and for some, now hard to accept.

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table.   (Luke 11:37 NIV84)

By now, most of the Pharisees were at odds with Jesus, so it is possible that this invitation to lunch was part of a larger plan to trap Jesus; to use His habits, which were well-known, or His words against Him.  But Jesus had a plan of His own, and nothing – not even religious leaders – would stop Him.  Part His plan involved these very religious leaders, the lawyers and the Pharisees.  Jesus had a message for them, and what better time to deliver it than over lunch?  So, the religious leaders thought they were in charge, but it was Jesus who used this situation for His purpose.  We will find out that these men, whatever else they may have been, were hypocrites.   We will also learn that Tennyson was right in his observations regarding these people who pervert the truth:

A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies! A lie which is all a lie may be met and fought outright, But a lie which is part of a truth is a harder matter to fight!

1.  A hypocrite is more concerned with the traditions of man than the truth of God

But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. (Luke 11:38 NIV84)

These so-called experts in all things having to do with the Law, the Old Testament, were actually far more interested in compliance to certain rituals that had nothing to do with Scripture.   In fact, these people were quite literally obsessed with hundreds of man-made rules.  They were constantly being handed down and enforced as if salvation depended on their strict observance.  In truth, the very simple precepts of the Levitical Law demanding cleanliness and ceremonial purity had been blown way out of proportion.   Jesus, by His action of entering the house and simply “reclining” at the table, was demonstrating what He thought of their precious hand-washing requirement. 

The Pharisees cared more about the traditions of the elders, which were always in a state of flux, being added to or altered, than they were with the true, unchanging Law of God or with the true dignity of Jesus’ divine character.  In truth, the true child of God ought never be put in a position of having to be bound by the opinions of man.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 NIV84)

Living by faith, understanding that your position in Christ is a work of faith alone, sets the believer free from the notion of having to “earn” his salvation through man-made rules and regulations. 

But the hypocrite is the one who thinks – and insists that others think as he does – that salvation is a matter of God’s grace and faith, but also a matter of believing the right “doctrines,” as determined by some man or committee of men.  Jesus would have nothing to do with such nonsense.  Why, then, do we?

2.  The hypocrite is more concerned with being clean on the outside than with purity of heart.

Then the Lord said to him, Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”  (Luke 11:39 NIV84)

Jesus called a spade a spade!  His words here are strong, direct, but necessary.  The word translated “greed” means literally “plunder” or “robbery.”  His point here is that the only good side to the Pharisee is the outside; inside he is rotten to the core.  They live their lives for the eyes and scrutiny of other people.  These were the man-pleasers that continually got under the skin of the apostle Paul:

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.   They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.   (Titus 1:15-16 NIV84)

Jesus went to to say:

Fools! Didnt God make the inside as well as the outside? Purity is best demonstrated by generosity.  (Luke 11:40, 41  TLB)

In typical hypocrite fashion, they were partly right but mostly wrong!  These religious types made sure the outside was squeaky clean, but they neglected to clean up the inside.  Erdman comments,

Jesus declared that to wash the body while the heart is impure is as absurd as to clean only the outside of the cup or platter.  God made both the body and soul, and is more concerned with the latter than with the former.

The precise meaning of these two verses is a little unclear, but Jesus may have in  mind the Pharisee’s predilection for being all talk but with very little action.  And our Lord may also have had in mind the numerous Old Testament passages that stress obedience to the more important aspects of the Law over obedience to ceremonial ordinances.  These passages might include:  Isaiah 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8.  It’s not that Jesus is advocating a works-based salvation, but rather something akin to what His half-brother would later write:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   (James 2:17 NIV84)

But there is a deeper meaning here.  These hypocrites should have been giving unselfishly to help others, motivated not from the outside but from their inner most being.  But we get the sense that, in fact, the opposite was going on:  they were actually robbing  the poor.  That may be taken two ways:  (1)  by not giving generously, the Pharisees were robbing them; (2)  somehow they were literally taking what little the poor had away from them.  Perhaps in the form of offerings or  some sort of “temple” tax.  Either way, the shoddy way these men treated the poor showed them for what they were:  hypocrites who talked right but walked wrong.

3.  The hypocrite majors on the minors

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  (Luke 11:42 NIV84)

It’s a fact that nothing good follows the word “woe” in the Bible!  The hypocrites eating lunch with Jesus observed scrupulously the tithing admonition taught in Leviticus 27–

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.  (Leviticus 27:30 NIV84)

What strikes you is that these Pharisees not only observed this part of the Law, but they observed it to the minutest detail!  They tithed…herbs!  Mint?  Why stop there…why not tithe a grain of sand?  Their absolute obsession such minor points of the Law blinded them to the needs of others.  They were strong on their knowledge of the Law, which Jesus never condemned by the way, but they had no love.  We don’t know why they were like this; perhaps they thought themselves above being charitable to others or it may be that as far as they were concerned being sticklers for the letter of the Law absolved them from getting involved with others. 

Jesus informed these men that it was proper for them to practice their tithing; the New Covenant wasn’t established yet.  It’s interesting that the Gospels mention the “tithe” only three times, all in connection with the Pharisees.  Tithing is also mentioned in Hebrews but only in a historical context.  We never read of any member of the early church tithing.  We do, however, read a lot about “generous giving.”  Christians ought to give generously, as God enables them to do so. 

But these religious men eating with Jesus, they were all about the minute letter of the Law.  That’s what motivated them. 

4.  The hypocrite loves to impress people with his “religiosity.”

Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  (Luke 11:43 NIV84)

Yes, these hypocritical Pharisees loved to be seen in the synagogues and loved to be greeted in the streets.   And so are religious hypocrites today.  They don’t really care about adorning the great doctrines of the Bible, but like to be adorned by those doctrines.  In other words, the religious hypocrites of today use and warp Biblical doctrines to meet some need they have.  How many preachers and pastors are in those professions because they like the (imagined) power or for the prestige that comes from being introduced as “Reverend” or “Doctor” or “Reverend Doctor?”

5.  The hypocrite true character is opposite to what he projects

Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.  (Luke 11:44 NIV84)

This “woe” is a little different from the parallel “woe” in Matthew 23:27–

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead mens bones and everything unclean.   (Matthew 23:27 NIV84)

In Matthew, the Pharisees are compared to beautiful tombs that look clean and well-kept on the outside but full of putrid rot on the inside.  Here in Luke, though, the comparison is a little different.  Here Jesus says the Pharisees are just unmarked graves that anybody would walk over without even noticing. 

According to Jewish customs of the day, these kinds of “unmarked graves” needed to be whitewashed so as to be easily seen.  If, as Jesus said, a hapless Jew were to walk over one of those graves, he would have been ceremonially impure, so that’s why these undistinguished grave markers had to be whitewashed.  To the religious types listening to Jesus this lunch hour, this “woe” must have been particularly stinging because here they were, thinking they “all that”  and being looked up to and admired by everybody.  Yet they were like unkept grave markers; neglected.  The Pharisees had hidden their hypocrisy, presuming people were impressed with them.  Yet, according to Jesus, some people were not – they were, as it were, just walking right over them.

The true character of the hypocrite is the opposite to what they project.  So let’s be careful to make sure our hearts are right and our motives pure as we serve the Lord and lead others to Him.

EZEKIEL AND THE HYPOCRITES

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Ezekiel 33:30-33

It is December, 586 BC and Jerusalem has lain in ruins for three months.  It took that long for a lone fugitive to reach the exiled Jews in Babylon with the news.  The fall of Jerusalem was the pivot point in Ezekiel’s ministry and his book.  Up to the end of chapter 32, Ezekiel had been prophesying the end of Israel as a nation and explaining to the exiles why this had to happen.  It was because of their continual disobedience to the Covenant.  It’s not like they hadn’t been warned, because they had been.  For generations, prophets came warning the people to smarten up and start abiding by the terms of the Covenant.  But the more they were warned, the more stiff-necked they became; determined to go their own way, doing their own thing.

Verses 21 and 22 set the scene for what we are looking at in this study:

In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has fallen!”  Now the evening before the man arrived, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent.  (Ezekiel 33:21-22 NIV84)

So what we are reading is a message Ezekiel gave the evening before this fugitive arrived with the news.  It was a long series of messages, actually, that took a day to deliver.  Part of his sermon included a message to the small remnant of Jews that had survived the destruction of Jerusalem and was now living among its ruins.  And God’s message to these people was not good:

“Say this to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague.'”   (Ezekiel 33:27 NIV84)

There is no escaping God’s judgment!  The people of God needed to judged – all of them – even those who had cleverly hid out in caves when Nebuchadnezzar’s army rolled over Jerusalem.  He didn’t find them, but others would – other armies, animals and sickness.  God’s judgment would be complete and it would be obvious to the exiles that He had spoken; that He had kept His Word.

But what about these exiles in Babylon?   They had escaped death and Ezekiel had been doing his best to set the record straight:  they were in exile because they had been rebellious; they had turned their collective backs on the Lord, and they were being punished.  They were spared death because they needed to see firsthand that when God promises He will do something, He does it.  But the truth is these exiles in Babylon were no better than any other Jew.  They were, as Bunyan said, “a saint abroad and a devil at home.”  In other words, at this point in Ezekiel’s ministry, he’s not dealing with out-and-out idolaters and obviously wicked people.  No, they’re worse than that.  The people Ezekiel is dealing with now actually seemed like him!  But they’re hypocrites.

Let’s look at them.

1.  How they treated Ezekiel

“As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’   (Ezekiel 33:30 NIV84)

There isn’t a pastor or minister who hasn’t experienced exactly what is being described here.  These people crowded around the prophet; they put on a form of Godliness as long as it served their own personal interests.   They assumed the role of God’s people; they did what God’s people would do.  But in secret the made fun of Ezekiel and mocked God’s Word.  The only time they exposed themselves God’s Word was when Ezekiel was preaching.  The only time they fellowshipped with God’s people was when Ezekiel was preaching.

This sounds a lot like modern Christianity.  How many Christians, do you suppose, flock to church on a Sunday, are entertained by their pastor, glad-hand all the members and talk to them like “best friends,” but have virtually nothing to do with them during the week?  The only Bible teaching they get comes from their pastor, whom they support when they are in church, but the rest of time is the object of their scorn or mockery.  They hear the Word but do nothing with it.

Given the state of the Church of Jesus Christ today, it seems like there are is a majority of “Christians” that behaves just like that.  They’re saved, but going nowhere.  They look the part, but lack the power.  And they are befuddled when their prayers seem to go unanswered.

The reality is, if Christians took their faith seriously, churches would be full.  If Christians took their faith seriously, their marriages would work and their children wouldn’t be all mixed up.  If Christians took their faith seriously, they’d elect officials with at least a Biblical worldview.  If Christians took their faith seriously they’d have peace, joy, contentment, a positive outlook, and all the things that “mysteriously” elude them.

Christian, you either believe the Bible or you don’t.  You either crave good Christian fellowship or you don’t.

2.  How they treated God’s Word

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.  (Ezekiel 33:31 NIV84)

These exiles put on a good show.  They did and said everything that was expected of them.  If it were possible to look back in time, you’d probably be very impressed with how these exiles were behaving.  They hear that Ezekiel is going to preach, and they tell their friends and neighbors and they hurry over to hear him.  They hung on his every word.  Ezekiel must have been an attractive preacher!

Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.   (Ezekiel 33:32 NIV84)

What a stinging indictment of God’s people.  But God sees into the hearts of His people.  Nobody can put on the dog-and-pony-show and expect God to buy it.  God is looking into your hearts right now.  He knows what you really think about the Bible, your church, your pastor, and He knows the true state of your soul.

These exiles seemed to be impressed with Ezekiel.  His wholly Scriptural messages sounded like music in their ears.  They just didn’t take them (or him) seriously.  They heard it with their ears, but rejected it in their hearts.  The prophet Isaiah said something very similar:

The Lord says:  “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  (Isaiah 29:13 NIV84)

Isaiah is describing Israel, but he could easily be describing the modern Church of Jesus Christ.  How many denominations make up rules and change their own rules at the drop of a hat?   What was once unacceptable for a Christian is now acceptable.  What was once called a sin is now called anything but.   How many denominations try to appeal to the worst in sinful man rather than demanding the best?

Something you won’t hear from a lot of church pulpits today is that the Word of God never tries to accommodate your sin.  The Word of God insists that YOU change; that you conform to IT, not the other around.  When you treat the Bible like that you set yourself up as a hypocrite.  Jesus had a low opinion of hypocrites:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV84)

If you are a Christian, you’d do well to remember these words spoken by Samuel:

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV84)

The exiles needed to know the truth.  Jerusalem had fallen.  Ezekiel had been proven to be a genuine prophet of God.   Yet still the people refused to obey the Word of the Lord he gave them.  You don’t get tricked into unbelief; it’s wilful.  It’s not that you cannot accept what God says, it’s that you will not act on it.  The real problem that plagued the Jews is the real problem that plagues the church today:  we prefer our sin; we’d rather not change; we choose to hear the Word, but then choose to do nothing with it.

With God, it’s all about the choice.  God saves you, but then it’s up to you; you must choose to live for God.  God gave each of us a rational, thinking mind, capable to making the right choice.  Do it!  Use your God-given rational, thinking mind to make the only rational choice possible:  choose to devote yourself 100% to God.  Enjoy His blessing.  Enjoy the promises of God reaching their fulfilment in your life.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:15 NIV84)


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