Are You A Hypocrite?
Jesus was getting closer to the cross, and He spent these final days debating with the religious leaders
and teaching His disciples.
Matthew 23 contains some of the toughest words ever recorded from the lips of Jesus.
Jesus had compassion on tax collectors and prostitutes and He was known as a friend of sinners.
But He was righteously indignant when it came to religious hypocrisy.
It wasn't anger with these hypocrites.
It was that His heart was broken because their religious system had prevented them
from the true knowledge of God.
The word "hypocrite" literally means "someone who acts in a play."
I read where one pastor has said that: "Jesus is the only person in the New Testament
who used the word "hypocrite."
Archeologists have discovered a Roman city named Sepphoris, which you could see from Jesus'
hometown of Nazareth.
It housed a giant amphitheater.
The actors who put on plays there were called hypokrites.
They wore masks so the audience could identify the different characters each was intended to portray.
So, hypocrisy means "wearing a mask designed to impress or deceive others."
Matthew 23:1-13. "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: '
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
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.
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.
Everything they do is done for men to see:
They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
they love to be greeted in the the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master, and you are all brothers.
And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
The greatest among you will be your servant.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.
You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
Growing up in church I heard the word "hypocrite" a lot.
There were been times when I invited one of my friends to visit our church,
I got the response that they don't attend because there are hypocrites in the church.
I heard of a church sign that read: "This church is not full of hypocrites.
There's always room for more."
Simply said "Hypocrisy is saying one thing, but acting another way."
Jesus tells us how to identify a hypocrite.
First, a hypocrite is a person who does good deeds to be noticed by others.
If you carry a large Bible to make people think you're more spiritual,
then acting like a hypocrite that Jesus was talking about in verse 5.
He said, "Everything they do is done for men to see."
He said they make their phylacteries wide and their prayer tassels long.
A phylactery is a little leather box that contains a tiny rolled-up script with Bible verses.
It had straps so they could tie these little boxes to their heads and left hands and arms
to literally fulfill Deuteronomy 6:8.
Jesus pointed out it had become a contest to see who could have the largest phylactery
and the longest prayer tassels.
It had nothing to do with real prayer or God's Word;
it was all about making other people notice their spirituality.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned against this kind of performance mentality.
He said, "When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do
in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.
I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:2)
He also warned about praying just so others would hear you,
and fasting in a way that shows off how holy you are.
Praying, fasting, and good deeds are all legitimate disciplines we should practice.
It's all about our motives.
Are we doing those things just so that others will notice and think better of
We should be living every day just to hear our Master say, "Well done good and faithful servant."
So does this mean we should never perform acts of service or good deeds publicly, only
Of course not; in Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they
may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
If you always point people to God as the source of your goodness,
then, by all means, do good and be good in the name of Jesus.
Second, A Hypocrite Loves Having A Special Title.
Jesus spoke these harsh words to the religious professionals because they coveted a special status
that came with special titles.
They wore those titles as a badge of special spirituality.
Jesus said, "They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'" (Matthew 23:6)
I believe there are some preachers at the top of the list at desiring titles.
There are all kinds of diploma mills out there where pastors can write off and get a mail-order "doctor's degree."
David Dykes said they do that so they can be called,
"The Reverend Doctor Tinkling Cymbal, or the Right Reverend Sounding Brass."
Dykes also told of a humorous poem that he read that said,
"There once was a preacher named Tweedle,
who refused to accept his degree.
He said it's bad enough being Tweedle; without being Tweedle, DD."
I had a college professor who had an earned PhD.
He made this statement more than once: "Get your degree, and then forget it.
It has as much meat in it has a pig's tale."
The lust for status isn't just restricted to pastors though.
Maybe you love to be called "Deacon,
Teacher, Master Teacher, Professor, CEO, Chairman, President, or Boss.
After Jesus warned about how hypocrites have a desire for outward righteousness, status, and titles,
He repeated His favorite paradox, "The greatest among you will be your servant."
Do you wonder why Jesus never demanded the people to call Him Messiah, or Son of God?
He didn't want a title.
The title He preferred was "Son of Man" because that was a servant-title.
The night before He was crucified, Jesus was at the last supper.
The disciples were proud of their titles as "chosen disciples."
We need to remember that Jesus led with a towel, not a title.
Third, You are a hypocrite if you keep people out of God's Kingdom.
Remember, hypocrites were actors on a stage wearing a mask and playing a role.
When the performance was over, they took off the mask.
Some people wear a religious mask on Sunday.
They have their Sunday clothes, their Sunday vocabulary, and their Sunday smile.
But when they leave the church building, they take off their mask.
Then next Sunday, they put their mask back on and play the role of good little Christian again.
The most dangerous potential consequence of being a religious performer is it can keep others out of heaven.
Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.
You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matthew 23:13)
Don't you think that it is time for you to throw away your mask?
Fourth, A Hypocrite Will Get Mad Over This Sermon.
How did the religious leaders respond after Jesus said all these things?
Did they say, "Jesus, you're right; we repent?"
They were so angry they arranged to have Him arrested.
They put Him through a mock trial, and then demanded the Romans crucify Him.
I have heard it said that "The truth will set you free; but first it will make you mad."
There is some truth in that.
I regret to say that there have been times that I have been a hypocrite.
And I am not proud of that.
I haven't always done the right things that I should have done,
Paul also struggled with this issue:
He wrote, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am not spiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do
I know that nothing good lives in me,
that is, in my sinful nature
what a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:14, 18, 24-25)
I belive that most of us can relate to that.
Can you relate to that?
Paul struggled with temptation and sin long after he became a Christian.
His final solution was to declare, "I can't live the Christian life.
I need someone to rescue me.
And thank God, Jesus Christ is doing that day by day as I surrender control of my life to Him."
The purpose of this passage is found in the one-sentence parable Jesus gave in verse 12.
It is more than a parable; it is a life principle.
He said, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
The world talks about climbing to the top of the ladder, the top of the heap,
or to the top of the hill.
In God's Kingdom, it's just the opposite.
As I read somewhere:
"The way up (self-promotion) is down (humbled by God).
But the way down (selflessness) is up (honored by God).
In 1881, Booker T. Washington became the President of Tuskegee Institute.
Washington, who had been born as a slave, was already famous as an orator,
educator, and author.
He was a devout Christian, and had even attended seminary at one time.
In his autobiography entitled, Up from Slavery, he tells about an encounter
he had shortly after he became the President of Tuskegee.
One day he was taking a stroll through an elite section of Tuskegee.
A wealthy, white woman saw him, and asked him if he wanted to make a few dollars
by chopping her firewood.
She didn't recognize him as the famous, Booker T. Washington.
Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded with the humble chore
she had requested.
When he finished, he carried the firewood into the house and stacked it by the fireplace.
When she tried to pay him, he politely refused and continued his walk through the town.
As he left her house, the lady's neighbor recognized Professor Washington
and revealed his identity to her.
The next morning, the embarrassed lady visited Mr. Washington in his office on campus.
She apologized profusely for her mistake.
He replied, "It's perfectly all right, Madam. I always enjoy manual labor.
Besides it's always a delight to do something for a friend."
She shook his hand and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had made an impact on her.
Not long afterwards, she demonstrated her gratitude by persuading some of her wealthy neighbors
to join her in donating thousands of dollars to Tuskegee Institute.
If others had been in his shoes, they might have said,
"Madam, do you know who I am? I am the President of Tuskegee Institute!"
Instead, Professor Washington demonstrated something extremely rare
therefore it is extremely valuable humility and selflessness.
The Apostle Paul was once a proud Pharisee who put Christians to death.
On the road to Patmos Jesus struck him with a bright light from heaven and got his attention,
and changed his life forever.
As you read his letters you will discover an interesting progression in his self-evaluation.
Early in his ministry, he wrote to the Corinthians, "I am no less than the chief apostles." (2 Corinthians 11:5)
A few years later he wrote to the Ephesians: "I am the least of the saints." (Ephesians 3:8)
But his final self-evaluation was written to young Timothy.
He identified himself as "the worst of sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15).
Do you think, "I'm a pretty good person?"
In my ministry I have met with some who had committed terrible crimes,
and many of them said to me, "But I am a good person!"
What do you say?
Do you say, "I'm not perfect, but I'm better than most people, or at least some people?"
Or do you say: "I'm just a sinner saved by grace?"
Wouldn't it be better to say:
"I'm not what I ought to be, and I'm not what I want to be,
and I'm not what I'm going to be, but thank God because of His grace,
I'm not what I used to be."
Let's us throw away any mask that we have been wearing,
And show our world that we are just sinners saved by grace -- thank God!
Thanks to David Dykes for the inspiration for this sermon.