Jesus Teaches Against Hypocrisy
Open Your Bible
Matthew 23:1-39, Mark 12:38-44
BY Seana Scott
I stood in the wooden church pew, too short to see the stage, and watched my mom from the side, singing loudly, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great Thou art…” We attended church every Sunday. The pastor mesmerized my mom and dad with his inspirational preaching, which often included the call to “sow a financial seed.”
So, Mom and Dad donated generously toward the church and a global ministry to feed children overseas, even while chipping away at credit card debt. Then one Sunday, the pastor was gone. Grown-ups whispered. We stopped going to church. Years later I learned the elders fired the pastor due to embezzling the tithes and offerings.
I imagine the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 23 operated similary. Jesus says of them: “Hypocrites!” “Blind guides!” (vv.23,24).
Jesus revealed what was hidden behind their religious robes, long prayer garments, and honored positions: they were nothing they claimed to be; rather, they were “like whitewashed tombs” (v.27) and cups full of sin (v.25). They taught the law, but they followed the letter of the law not the spirit—and they cared more about the gold in the temple treasury than the righteous work of the temple itself (vv.16–22).
It’s easy to shake our heads in disgust at this pastor or the Pharisees of the world, but if I’m honest, I think we all have hypocritical tendencies. There are a myriad of ways we exalt ourselves in our mental comparison games. Maybe this is why Jesus emphasized that the greatest among us will be a servant (v.11) and warned that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (v.12). We desire greatness, but greatness in the kingdom means humility in humanity.
This means we don’t use position and power to exalt ourselves. Even if we’re never caught, one day all things will be laid bare—and we will all give an account. And then, the humble will be exalted.
Let’s not follow the footsteps of hypocrisy. Let’s be careful to make sure the greatness we pursue is the greatness of servitude.