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Matthew 23:1-36

How not to be a Hypocrite

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • July 17, 2011

The church has never claimed to be an association of perfect people, no; the church is filled with sinners who walk in the forgiveness of their Savior. Though the church is not filled with hypocrites, it's not empty of them either; therefore these are great words for us to receive, and to apply to our lives.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

How not to be a Hypocrite

Matthew 23:1-36

Matthew 23 continues with Jesus teaching in the temple just before He is arrested, cruelly treated, crucified, but also victoriously raised from the grave.

We just finished reading about how the Jewish leaders of that day had come to challenge Jesus with questions designed to trap and accuse Him, and to draw the multitudes away from Him. But instead of trapping Jesus, each of their challenges instead confounded and rebuked them.

In chapter 23, Jesus turns to the multitudes and to His disciples to warn them about the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders and the whole chapter is dedicated to this point.

Now a lot of people don't like talking about hypocrisy; it makes them very uncomfortable. The word hypocrite is used many times in this chapter so it's good for us to understand what it means. This is one of those words that comes directly out of Greek into English and it literally means, "To be an actor."

Hypocrisy is pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to fully practice those virtues that one preaches or believes in, if that were the case, everyone could be accused of hypocrisy.

The British philosopher Samuel Johnson once said, "Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for virtues that he has yet to fully obtain." We can strongly believe in the principles and virtues that God gives us in His Word and yet fall short of them because we are an imperfect and flawed people.

For example, do you truly believe that, "Every word that proceeds from your mouth should be such a word that's good for edification?" Do you do this consistently? You strongly believe in that principle, and would truly love to master it, but have yet to fully obtain it, that's not hypocrisy. There's some inconsistency in everyone's life, mine included.

Illus - I taught a parenting class recently and said that we should use no negative emotion when disciplining our children. I absolutely believe in the principle, have I always done that? No, not always.

Illus - I also taught a marriage class recently and said that we should always seek for solutions and speak words of life and edification, I truly believe those words, have I always done that? No, not always.

The problem of hypocrisy is deliberately putting on a mask. Saying one thing, but not at all believing it, so there most certainly wouldn't be any doing of it in reality either.

Illus - if hypocrisy is the wearing of a mask, then the opposite of hypocrisy is being genuine and real. Hypocrisy pretends that it doesn't have any flaws at all, sincerity takes responsibility for its flaws by bringing them to God. Sincere literally means, "No wax."

It's interesting that Jesus just finished giving them the greatest and foremost commandment in all the Word of God, that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind. If they would do that, if we would do that, we would fulfill all that God desires.

Another reason why people don't like talking about hypocrisy is because it's the common thing we hear from the world, "I don't want to go to church because it's filled with hypocrites." But the church has never claimed to be an association of perfect people, no; the church is filled with sinners who walk in the forgiveness of their Savior.

Though the church is not filled with hypocrites, it's not empty of them either; therefore these are great words for us to receive, and to apply to our lives.

I. Live to Please God

  • Jesus began by saying that the Jewish leaders have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. In other words, they spoke the Word of God that Moses gave; therefore follow the Word of God.
  • In other words, they were to follow the Word of God, not the lives of the scribes and Pharisees, because they teach the Word of God, but did not believe and therefore did not follow the Word.
  • In other words, they tie up heavy loads on other people's shoulders, but are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

A. Be noticed by God

  • Since the Jewish leaders lacked a heart after God, their heart was after themselves and so they were motivated by seeking the honor of men.

Illus – They broadened their phylacteries; these were small boxes containing Scripture verses. Jesus said they would wear larger and larger phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments as sort of a religious competition.

  • God’s Word makes clear the importance of seeking the approval of God, and what pleases Him most of all?Faith.

2 Corinthians 5:9, Therefore we also have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him.

John 12:43, Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

  • Verse 6; they love the place of honor at banquets and chief seats in the synagogue and respectful greetings in the marketplace.
  • But what Jesus taught was that honor actually comes from humility.

Luke 14:7-11 He who humbles himself will be exalted.

B. Love the title "servant" most of all

  • Jesus pointed out that the Jewish leaders loved respectful greetings in the marketplace and being called by men, Rabbi.
  • The problem, of course, is that titles are no indication of spiritual reality. You can be called Dr. Rev. Bishop Smith, but all that means is that you spent a lot of time in school.
  • "Don't seek for titles," Jesus said. Many pastors like the title "Rev." but that means, "one who is revered, or high and lifted up. But Jesus was trying to point out that we are all brothers.

  • In fact, He went on to say that "the greatest among you shall be your servant." In other words, we should desire to be known as a servant.

Illus - In Africa, at our pastors conferences, this is a difficult point to get across because in Africa, a pastor is so highly revered and many of them use it to their advantage. Many of them want to call me, "Father," but I cannot accept it and will put a stop to it.

II. Live to Bless Others

  • Beginning with verse 13, Jesus begins to call out woes against the scribes and Pharisees because of how they treated others in their hypocrisy.
  • It follows right out of the greatest and foremost commandments. The greatest is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, the second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Their relationship to God was completely out of order, and so was their relationship to others.
  • Immaturity always favors itself, exactly the problem you see in their lives. So in order to not be a hypocrite, we must learn these lessons for ourselves as well.

A. Seek first the kingdom of heaven

  • They shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. How? People were hungry and seeking for spiritual food, but instead of building their faith and strengthening their soul, they were trying to look religious and taking advantage of the people.
  • They were an obstacle to faith. They rejected Jesus and argued against Him even though God had clearly given them signs of the times for them to see that Jesus was sent by God.

John 9:22, They were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out the synagogue.

  • The answer for our lives is that we should seek the kingdom of heaven as a priority in our lives and encourage others to do the same also because it's the best possible thing for our lives.

Matthew 6:33, "but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

B. Look out for the interests of others

  • Another problem was that they were taking advantage of widows even while giving long prayers as a pretense of holiness.
  • If someone's husband had died, they were especially vulnerable and a man of honor and integrity would watch out for her interests.
  • But they made a science out of taking advantage of others, even their own parents.

Mark 7:11, "But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition."

  • Paul gave a great answer so we can note the heart of God toward others.

Philippians 2:3-5, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus…

C. Be an example to follow

  • Jesus said they were traveling about on sea and land to make one convert, and then made him twice as much a son of hell as themselves.
  • Those are strong words, but there is a strong point that goes along with it. If we want something sincere and authentic happening in our families and in our church, then we need to have something sincere and genuine in our lives as well.
  • May we truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, for then true revival can happen in the church. There's an old saying in Calvary Chapel circles, “Healthy sheep reproduce.”

D. Let your word be true

  • The issue here is that the Jewish leaders were saying that it is only oaths on the gold of the Temple that obligates.
  • But this was only a way to get out of keeping their word and not paying their obligations.
  • We have a saying that captures this beautifully, "I give you my word." That means that all that I am stands behind my word. That's what God wants for us as well.

Matthew 5:37, "But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

James 5:12, But let your yes be yes, and your no be no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

E. Don't swallow a camel.

  • They went to great trouble to tithe the slightest amount of dill and cummin, but neglected justice mercy and faithfulness.
  • He used the example of straining out a gnat, the smallest of flies that might accidentally fall into a cup, but then they swallow a camel!
  • What are the greater things that God desires? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

F. Strengthen the soul within

  • They clean the outside of the cup, but the inside is full of robbery and self-indulgence. "Clean the inside of the cup first," Jesus said.

Ephesians 3:16-19 Be strengthened with power.

  • Lastly, look at verse 37 and see that God's heart is to gather us to Himself. There in His presence, we can have relationship under the shadow of the Almighty and with a teachable heart, we can be changed, the very thing He desires.

Matthew 23:1-36       NASB

1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.] 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
 
16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
 
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

34 "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

 

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