Our Lord's Devastating Condemnation of Hypocrisy
The most devastating condemnation of hypocrisy is given by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:
Much Talk But Little Action
"Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Pride and Arrogance
"But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in Heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
God Resists the Proud But He Gives Grace to the Humble
"But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Enemies of the Kingdom of God
"But woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Predators and Pretenders
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Sons of Hell
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the Temple, he is obliged to perform it.' Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the Temple that sanctifies the gold? And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.' Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the Temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by Heaven, swears by the Throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
Neglecting Justice, Mercy and Faith
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Concerned with Externals – But Neglecting the Heart
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' 'Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" Matthew 23:1-33
Under the Curse of God
In contrast to the 8 Beatitudes, our Lord lists 8 Woes to the hypocritical pharisees. These are Covenantal curses, God's Lawsuit against apostates.
Marks of a Hypocrite
From Matthew 23 we can see the seven marks of a hypocrite:
They say one thing and do another. Their speech and their actions are contrary to one another. They seem to know a lot, but they do not practice what they preach. Their words and their works do not line up. Their lips say one thing but their lives say another. They may tell others to obey the Law, but they themselves do not obey it. They advocate standards and experiences that they do not evidence. They are characterised by much talk but little action.
Is your life a contradiction of your words? Talk is easy but walk is hard. The first mark of a hypocrite is that he contradicts his words by his actions. Do your actions betray your words as hypocritical? If so, stand convicted of hypocrisy and bow your head in Repentance confessing your sin.
The second characteristic of a hypocrite is that he seeks the approval and applause of people. Whenever he does something right it is in such a way that it may be seen. Virtue signalling. The pharisees in Jesus day would sound a trumpet before giving his alms and he would stand at the street corner to perform his prayers. To the hypocrites virtue done in the dark is almost a vice. He cannot detect any beauty in virtue unless there is an audience. The standard of the hypocrite is the opinion of others, his law is self-seeking and self-virtuous. If he is virtuous, it is in order to be praised. If something that is a vice today were to be considered a virtue tomorrow then he would abandon himself to it with enthusiasm. Applause is what the hypocrite seeks after. The hypocrite wonders what the point would be of giving to the poor, or praying to God in secret, where no eye can see and no tongue can sing his praise? They court and covet places of honour and respect.
Hypocrites do their good works, or virtue signalling for multiculturalism and LGBTQ tolerance, for approval and applause. Is that so with you? If so, be honest and, as you would convict another, convict yourself in Prayer and Repentance before God.
Hypocrites love titles, honours and respect from men: "Archbishop", "Oscar Award winning", "Nobel Prize winner", "Pulitzer Prize winner" and "New York Times Best Selling Author". The hypocrites love being praised, honoured, seated in the best place and regarded as respectable and popular. Yet this has not been the way of Christians through the ages. The term 'Christian' was a mark of derision and an insult when the believers were first called Christians at Antioch. However they gladly took the name of reproach. The term 'Puritan' was used as an insult by drunkards to swear at believers who sought to maintain a Godly standard. The Reformed Christians gladly took on this term of reproach. Similarly, the term 'Methodist' was meant as a term of abuse and the Wesleyans adopted it as their title. By popular acclaim, the missionary Patrick was called a Saint. However, in his own writings he only described himself as a "sinner".
What are we to say about those who want to be referred to as "Apostle", "Prophet", or "Your Holiness"? Jesus said: No one is good except God alone. Our Lord commanded that we should call no man on earth Father. We have one Father in Heaven. What are we to say about those who want to be termed "Holy Father"? Our Lord warns against the temptation to accord human leaders the authority and prerogatives that belong to God alone. Making an idol of themselves. To honour ourselves in church where God alone should be honoured makes idolatry even more reprehensible.
Are you willing to be the despised follower of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you only want to follow the Lord to be honoured by men, then you are a hypocrite.
Our Lord Jesus said that the servant is not greater than the Master. If they hated Christ, they will hate you too. Our Lord suffered for us and left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps. Whoever wants to be great among you must be the servant of all.
A hypocrite strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. The gnat is the smallest of unclean creatures in the Bible. The camel is the largest. In Aramaic the words sound similar. Hypocrites major on minors and neglect the weightier matter of the Law: justice and mercy and faith. One can see the hypocrisy in those very particular souls who look out for the little things, always searching out small point of differences, while neglecting the big issues such as the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. We must watch out when we find ourselves more concerned about trivialities than the Kingdom of God, the Word of God, the work of God and the worship of God.
The Judaizers of today have adopted much of the legalism and hypocrisy of the pharisees catalogued by our Lord in Matthew 23. They find fault with some trifling issue while neglecting the major duties and calls of God’s Word. Our Lord Jesus identifies justice, mercy and faith. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the fulfilment of the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to know God and we are to make Him known. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We have to love our neighbour as ourselves. Care for God's Creatures. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.
Do not neglect the small issues. For he who is faithful in small matters can be trusted in large. However, make sure that your primary focus and major time and energy is devoted to what is of the greatest importance, in the light of Eternity.
Hypocrites neglect the inward and focus on the outward. They clean the outside of the cup and bowl while the inside is full of extortion and self-indulgence. Like whitewashed tombs they appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of decay, corruption, death and all kinds of uncleanness. They appear outwardly righteous to men, but inside they are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. There are many beautiful bound books with lovely covers which have nothing inside them. There are many people who have a very religious looking exterior while there is nothing spiritual going on in their life. While the hypocrite gives minute attention to the externals, they are careless about the inward heart, soul and spirit.
They may take the bread and the wine during a communion service, but they are not careful to see whether they have truly partaken of the flesh and Blood of Christ. They may have been baptised with water, but they have not been careful to see that they are buried with Christ in baptism and raised to newness of life through Him. They may be satisfied with having been to a church service, but fail to have communion with Christ Himself.
The hypocrites are those who may be satisfied with an exterior Christianity made up of Christian bumper stickers, T-shirts and jewellery, but neglecting a personal devotion and daily discipleship walk with Christ. Like a tree with shallow roots or a rotten branch, the winds of adversity will cause the hypocrite to fail and fall.
Have you been born again? Have you passed from darkness to light? Have you been delivered from the bondage of satan into the Kingdom of God's own dear Son?
Do you live in daily contact with and dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you hunger and thirst after a closer walk with Jesus?
If you cannot say this, whatever your outward life may seem, you may be self-deceived and deceiving others and the Lord's woes of the hypocrite may fall upon you.
Is this getting too personal? Then may God be praised. May the truth be the death of your delusions.
Hypocrisy is mostly concerned with externals. Hypocrites are pretentious. All for show and nothing of substance. The religion of the hypocrite depends upon the time and the place. The hypocrite’s conscience is very elastic. He can be something of a chameleon, taking his complexion from the background. It is easy to be a Sunday Christian in church. What is your behaviour like the rest of the week? When you are around Christians it is easy to behave as a Christian. But how do you behave when you are around those who do not love and serve the Lord? If your character, conduct and conversation drastically change with your company, then may you not be a counterfeit Christian?
Of course, all Christians are fallible, but we are not to be false. Are you a true Christian every day of the week, no matter what company you are in?
Hypocrites are generally severe with others but very lenient on themselves. Hypocrites can make what they would easily recognise as a vice in others, look like a virtue in themselves. "You are a miser, but I am economical. You are stubborn, but I am determined. You are wasteful, but I am generous!"
The hypocrite can be very concerned about the speck in someone else's eye, but oblivious to the log in his own eye. Hypocrites make vices in others, into virtues in themselves and they can present themselves as virtuous. Hypocrites are always making excuses for themselves, while condemning others. The hypocrite is a judge - condemning, punishing and ready to lynch others while considering themselves exempt from the same standards, a law unto themselves. Their conscience is so seared that they can easily continue to wallow in the very sins that they condemn in others.
Hypocrites impose burdens on others that they are not willing to bear themselves.
John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress describes how Christians have the very opposite attitude to the hypocrite. After Mercy, Christiana and the children were washed in the bath and sealed with the seal, as they came out of the water all fair and lovely, the one began to say to the other: "You are fairer than I!" and "You are more comely than I!" They could see their own blemishes, but could only praise the beauty of the others. In honour preferring one another. But the spirit of the hypocrite is the very reverse. They are generous with themselves, but severe with others. The condemnation of the Lord Jesus Christ against such hypocrites is most severe: "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" Matthew 22:33
Self-Conceit and Self-Deceit
The hypocrites built tombs to honour the prophets and adorned monuments of the righteous flattering themselves that they would never had murdered the prophets as their fathers did. In fact, the very pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking were the ones who conspired to betray Christ, falsely accuse Him, manufactured false testimony, bribed false witnesses, in order to have the Messiah murdered. Their self-conceit and self-deceit was total. The same Sun which melts the wax, hardens the clay. God's people responded to the ministry of Christ by being melted in their hearts, but the hypocrites were hardened in their hearts. "He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12
Racist Dictator Condemns in Others What He Practices Himself
While the African Union condemns racism, it has consistently supported the most racist regime on the continent, Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe and praised him as a “liberating hero”, despite "president" Robert Mugabe still hanging onto power 37 years later, even after having been repeatedly rejected by the electorate. It turns out that those screaming against “racism!” the most, are the worst racists of all.
Humanists are Hypocrites
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that humanists are hypocrites. They claim to stand for tolerance, yet are thoroughly intolerant of Evangelical Christians. Humanists champion diversity and pluralism and yet they work steadfastly to exclude Christian views from the public sphere. They claim to believe in no moral absolutes and yet they make their own humanist opinions the new moral absolutes.
Any scientist who dares to produce evidence that does not fit in with their evolutionary theories is denounced as "unscientific".
Doctors and nurses who do not want to pervert their healing profession into one that takes innocent life are to be bullied by legislation and regulations into participating in abortions.
Teachers who believe in the sanctity of marriage and are convinced that sexual activity before marriage is destructive are expected, against their own conscience, to teach their students situation ethics and perverse "alternative lifestyles".
Humanists claim to be non-religious, to be neutral; but in reality they are a new religion. Not even that new. In so many ways modern day secular humanism is little more than a revised paganism of the ancient cults which engaged in human sacrifice, child sacrifice, temple prostitution and pornographic objects of worship.
It is this militant secular humanism which is aggressively rewriting history, subverting morals, undermining the central tenets of the Christian faith and seeking to hijack the hearts, minds and souls of our children.
That is why I say that humanists are hypocrites. They claim to be “non-religious” when humanism is plainly a religion. They claim to support “tolerance”, when they are the most bigoted and intolerant of all. They claim to be for “diversity” and “pluralism” when they want to exclude Christianity from the market place of ideas. They claim not to believe in any moral absolutes, whilst elevating their own standards, or the lack of them, to effectively be new moral absolutes which, should anyone question, they will open themselves up to discrimination, ridicule, lawsuits and worse.
The fact is that humanism is the most destructive religion of all time and the most intolerant.
Evolutionists who claim to be for freedom of speech regularly ban any discussion, or dissension and fire those scientists who question Darwinian evolutionism, or who ask questions, which seem to consider Intelligent Design.
The African National Congress have also proven to be blatant hypocrites by supporting the most racist comments of Thabo Mbeki and Julius Malema and tolerating and rewarding some of the most corrupt kleptocrats in the country. They support and applaud racism in Zimbabwe even while giving lip service to "non-racism" and "democracy." They legalise abortion, but criminalise parental discipline. You can kill your baby, but you may not spank your child. Blasphemy and pornography must be tolerated as “freedom of expression,” but a flag can be a hate crime and your freedom of speech can be curtailed as “hate speech.”
The Worst Hypocrites in History
Indeed, arguably the worst hypocrites in human history have been the communists. Communists condemn oppression and uphold themselves as "liberators" and "champions of justice" and yet communist regimes have been the most oppressive in all of history. No other regimes have imprisoned as many people, executed as many victims, deliberately starved so many millions, erected such huge institutions of oppression, employed more secret police, imprisoning whole nations behind an iron curtain of barbed wire, mine fields, electric fencing and machine gun towers.
Worse Than What They Condemn
Just in the 20th century, over 160 million people were murdered by communist governments. From the Soviet Union throughout Eastern Europe, in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, Cuba, to North Korea and Red China, the historical record has proved that communists are cruel oppressors.
Although communists claim to be devoted to "world peace", they have consistently engaged in the most blatant acts of armed aggression. Just to take the Soviet Union as an example: the 1920 Red Army invasion of Poland, the 1921 invasion of Georgia in the Caucasian Mountains, the 1939 invasion of Finland, the 1940 invasion of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and the eastern half of Poland. The invasion and colonisation of all the countries of Eastern Europe in 1945. The invasion of Hungary in 1956. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Plainly, the Soviet Union's condemnations of "aggression" and claims to be devoted to "world peace" were hypocritical.
Although avowed anti-colonialists the Soviet Union was one of the greatest colonial powers on earth. Russians made up less than half of the Soviet Union's total population while there were 63 major national groups and over 127 languages in the vast Soviet empire, which included nations such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Large sections of Poland, East Prussia, Finland and Romania were also annexed to the Soviet Union.
Although claiming to be anti-imperialists, the Soviet Union had the most extensive empire in the world with satellite states like Mongolia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Afghanistan all firmly under Soviet Military occupation and control. Soviet troops also treated Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and Nicaragua as vassal states.
Although the Soviet Union consistently condemned militarism they maintained the highest percentage of military spending in the world. More than half of the total Gross National Product of the Soviet Union was devoted to building up its bloated military and security establishment. Tens-of-thousands of Soviet and Cuban troops were stationed in 14 African states where they were heavily involved in wars of aggression against local resistance movements and propping up unelected Marxist dictatorships.
Although the communists continually spoke of "liberation" and "freedom" they proved themselves to be the greatest enemies of freedom and the worst persecutors of the Christian Church. For over 70 years the communist party attempted to eradicate Christianity from Russia. Brainwashing, propaganda, infiltration of the church, imprisonment, torture, concentration camps and executions failed to destroy people's Faith in God and hunger for the Bible. Yet communism continued to export, not only its ideology of atheism, materialism and economic determinism, but its violent revolutionary methods and its hatred of God, the Bible and the Christian Church. Wherever communism has gone, the Church has been persecuted, the economy eroded, brutal oppression has been enforced, hunger has resulted and famine followed, millions were imprisoned in concentration camps and many hundreds more were executed, while hundreds-of-thousands of refugees fled the country.
Actions are Eloquent
The actions of communists speak clearly - communism kills, oppresses, exploits and persecutes. What then is one to think of those who walk around with Che Guevare T-shirts and Soviet name brand clothing, with yellow or red stars and hammer and sickle insignia on their T-shirts while they might talk about "freedom" and "democracy"? Communism certainly presents the most blatant example of hypocrisy.
Probably the most bizarre example of hypocrisy is provided by the African Union. While continually talking about "Democracy and Human Rights", the vast majority of government leaders represented at the Organisation of African Unity are dictators. The appointment of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (the dictator of Equatorial Guinea) as the Chairman of the African Union was particularly bizarre. Obiang Nguema came to power in 1979 in a coup in which he overthrew and killed his uncle. In his 35th year of oppressing and exploiting the longsuffering people of Equatorial Guinea, Nguema gave speeches on "democracy and human rights" while insisting that these values must be "adapted to African culture"!
Freedom for Mass Murder
Brutal Muslin dictator Idi Amin was the Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity. Amin rambled about "freedom" while he was presiding over the Ugandan holocaust in which hundreds-of-thousands of Christians were brutally slaughtered.
Living a Lie
Hypocrisy involves the deception of others. Hypocrisy is living a lie. Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is far more than simply failing to practice all those virtues that one promotes. For example, an alcoholic may sincerely advocate temperance without any hypocrisy, as long as that alcoholic makes no pretence of constant sobriety. Everyone should seek to attain to the highest Biblical standards, without pretending that they have already achieved perfection.
The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek hypokrisis which refers to play-acting and involves the concept of jealousy, cowardice, dissembling and deceit. It involves the condemning in others what one tolerates in oneself. Hypocrisy is the attempt to present a counterfeit "reality". Hypocrisy has been called: "the tribute that vice pays to virtue."
In Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, Yurii says: 'Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel. If you grovel before what you dislike …our nervous system is not just fiction, it is part of our physical body and it cannot be forever violated with impunity.'
God Sees Everything
After warning of the leaven of the pharisees which is hypocrisy, the Lord Jesus reminded us that: "There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on housetops." The Lord reminds us that God knows everything and He sees everything. The Day of Judgment will come when every secret will be revealed and even the hidden motives of the heart will be examined. In the light of the coming Day of Judgment we must reject the counterfeit, repent of hypocrisy and serve God in sincerity.
In the New Testament a hypocrite is one who claims to have a relationship with God and to love righteousness, but is self-seeking and self-deceived.
Outward Pretence – All for Show – Nothing of Substance
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Matthew 6:1-6
"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Matthew 6:16-18
Judgemental Nit Pickers and Legalists
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or, how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:1-5
Fear God Alone
"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" Luke 12:4-5
Live in the Light of Eternity
The fear of God will free us from the tyrannical fear of man. Reject peer pressure and the seducing influence of public opinion and popularity. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the Judgment. The Day will come when you will stand before Almighty God and you will have to give an account for everything you have ever said and done. If you were to die today and God was to Judge you in accordance with His Law, would you be innocent or guilty? Are you ready to face God?
"Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way and the unrighteous man His thoughts. Let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Isaiah 55:6-7
People pleasers make traitors. Let your yes be Yes! Let your no be No! Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Be a man, or woman, of your word, a person of integrity. Dependable. Sincere. Humble. Do not pretend to be more than you are, nor to be better than you are. Serve the Lord with fear. Do not be concerned with what others say of you. Reject peer pressure. Fear God alone!
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
The full message, as presented at Livingstone Fellowship, is available on audio CD from Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358, Howard Place 7450, Cape Town, South Africa, Tel: 021-689-7478, Fax: 086-551-7490, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Website: www.christianlibertybooks.co.za.
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