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Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? (3)
Jesus Came to Warn Us of Hypocrisy

Luke 12:1-12

Jim Davis

An interesting prayer was given recently in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate in 2000. I think that this prayer reveals our hypocrisy as a nation.

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate with a prayer, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your word and call it 'pluralism.'
We have worshipped other gods and called it 'multiculturalism.'
We have endorsed perversion and called it 'alternative lifestyle.'
We have exploited the poor and called it 'the lottery.'
We have rewarded laziness and called it 'welfare.'
We have killed our unborn and called it 'choice.'
We have shot abortionists and called it 'justifiable.'
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it 'building self-esteem.'
We have abused power and called it 'politics.'
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it 'ambition.'
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it 'enlightenment.'

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will, to open our hearts and ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on "The Rest of the Story" on the radio and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.

This prayer certainly reveals our hypocrisy. I wish that this prayer could sweep our nation and truly become our desire, that we again can be called one nation under God.

Christmas is also an occasion that exposes our hypocrisy as nothing else does. Christmas is a time when the world proclaims the birth of the Christ Child from the nativity scenes upon their housetops to the far reaches of the earth. However, we may wholeheartedly deny him the rest of the year. It would almost appear that the whole the world believes in Jesus, but appearances are deceiving.

Christmas can make ungodly people feel like Christians because they celebrate Christ's birth. We must avoid the hypocrisy of the crowd, which flocks to the Christmas pageants during the Holiday Season but tramples underfoot his revealing truth in their everyday lives. This hypocrisy grows like yeast as it devours the whole lump of dough. If we are not careful, we may allow it to consume the church.

Luke 12:1
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (NIV)

You must be on your guard against hypocrisy. When Jesus warned his disciples of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he was warning them concerning the doctrine of the Pharisees.

Matthew 16:6-12
"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (NIV)

The teaching of the Pharisees sought to separate doctrine from real life experiences. Their speech and actions opposed one another. Hypocrisy results when we separate what we believe from how we live. They recognized the authority of Moses in their preaching but refused to obey the demands his authority imposed.

Matthew 23:1-12
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 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. (NIV)

Talk is easy, but actions are demanding. We may find it easier to sing Christ praises on Christmas and to sing his praises each Lord's Day, but translating speech into action is the only thing that prevents hypocrisy. It is easy to make strict rules and regulations for others to adhere too, but sincerity demands that we help others carry the loads we bind upon them. Sincerity demands that we become their servants.

Jesus said, "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." It is easy for the church to think that her only duty is to preach the gospel to the world, but we must be actively living out our faith as we touch the lives of those in the world.

He made free use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions, which would become the pillars of the new government. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity--with no inward reality!

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Matthew 13:33 NIV) The most effective way to allow the yeast to work is for us to help the world carry the loads we seek to bind upon them. The most effective way for us to help the world carry those loads is to show them how we are willing to live up to the demands we place on them.

What Motivates Hypocrisy?

The Pharisees' hypocrisy was motivated by a desire to be seen of men. This type of hypocrisy loves titles, honors and respect from men. "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 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 Pharisee was never so happy as when he was called Rabbi.

It is easy for us to want honor ascribed to us that should be ascribed to God. After performing a miracle in the city of Lycaonia, the people sought to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods.

Acts 14:11-18
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. (NIV)

The mark of a Christian is that he/she will not seek the praises of men. When Peter went into the house of Cornelius, Cornelius sought to worship him.

Acts 10:24-26
The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." (NIV)

The Psalmist says of God, " . . . holy and reverend is his name." (Psalms 111:9) This is why we don't use the title "Reverend" in the churches of Christ. Man is not to be reverenced. When our worship becomes a means for personal recognition we become hypocrites. Religion can easily become outward as we seek to be seen of others. The Pharisee would sound a trumpet as he did alms and he would pray standing on the street corner.

The Pharisees were more concerned about reputation than character. To be well spoken of was the aim of his religion; to him to be virtuous was to be praised. They were more concerned about what others thought about them than they were with what God knew about them. The Pharisees' law was a law of self-seeking and self-honoring. His works were for the applause of men, so in essence he was worshipping himself.

Hypocrisy may also be motivated by fear. It is no accident that the word "fear" is mentioned five times in the following verses.

Luke 12:4-7
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (NIV)

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance said, "A man's judgment is best when he can forget himself and any reputation he may have acquired and can concentrate wholly on making the right decisions." Solomon may have said it best, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." (Proverbs 29:25 NIV) The fear of God is a fear that conquers all other fears. The person who truly fears God fears nothing else. Men can kill the body, but they cannot destroy the soul. God knows us and cares for us and there is not a thing about our lives that he is not aware of. The very hairs of you head are all numbered. You are more valuable than the sparrows and not one of them falls to the ground without God knowing about it.

It is not important what is said about us in the streets, but it is important that God acknowledges our names in heaven.

Luke 12:8-12
"I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." (NIV)

The fear of what the world will do to us drives many into hypocrisy. The world is really pressuring Christians to blend in and accept morals of the majority as our standard. When our fear causes us to blend in with the world so as to lose our identity as Christians we have denied Christ and become hypocrites.

What great thing would you attempt for Christ if you knew you could not fail? Remember we can't fail when we trust in God.

2 Timothy 2:8-14
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. (NIV)

Our hypocrisy makes it easy for us to celebrate Christmas, for everyone is doing it, but it may be difficult for us to confess to others that we are Christians by how we live. It makes it difficult to confess Christ openly.

I believe hypocrisy is also motivated by a desire for self-gratification. In this chapter Jesus has warned his disciples of the hypocrisy that desires recognition, he has warned them of the hypocrisy that is the result of fear, and now he warns them of the hypocrisy that is motivated by a desire for self-gratification.

Luke 12:13-22
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. (NIV)

Hypocrisy has a way of using truth to fulfill our own covetous desires. The Pharisees always used the law of Moses to settle their personal disputes because the Jews political structure was a theocracy. This man desired to use religious rules to demand his own rights but he was motivated by selfish greed. We live in a world that seeks to give to others freedom of rights, but too often a demand for our rights is based solely upon greed and self-gratification.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another-- and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. (NIV)

Hypocrisy convinces us that life consist in the abundance of our possessions. Contrary to our modern beliefs the one with the most toys doesn't always win. Tragically, when family and friends gather to mourn the death of a loved one, sometimes they can remember nothing of any real importance from the individual's life. It is, perhaps, excusable for teenagers or even young adults to live materialistic, self-centered lives, but more mature men and women ought to have examined themselves and know what is worth living for.

Our self-gratifying lifestyles proclaim our hypocrisy. A typical American, says a congressman, is a man who has just driven home from an Italian movie in his German automobile, who is sitting on a Danish chair, drinking Brazilian coffee out of an English bone- china cup, writing a letter on Canadian-made paper with a Japanese ball-point pen to his congressman- -complaining about too many foreign imports coming into the country.

Hollywood does a better job at revealing our hypocrisy than our pulpits as it mimics how we actually live. "It seems the church today is being taken to the laundry by the godless. We could shorten and simplify the process if we would judge ourselves. But if we don't, God will find a way. Hollywood may seem an unlikely prospect of hope for the church, but it may just provide the confrontation with our hypocrisy that we need to shock us into repentance. As much as we dislike what Hollywood represents, we must acknowledge its uncanny ability to accurately mimic us." (--Jack Taylor in Ministries Today, Jul/Aug 1993)

As Hollywood mimics us it reveals our hypocrisy, which is motivated by self-gratification. As much as I despise Hollywood's attack on our moral values today, I realize that in most instances Hollywood is merely reflecting the way we are already living. This is even true of the church. They design their shows around what people want to see. Therefore what you see in the movies or on television speaks as much about us as it does about Hollywood. Our hypocrisy causes us to scream as Hollywood seeks to give us what we want.

Hollywood and mass media has become the modern day pulpit preaching the values for our generation. Sadly these values are merely a reflection of what we desire. Too many Christians spend more time tuning into their television than they do with God. Today churches are seeking to espouse the values of society as they are reflected through Hollywood. Many churches are embracing partial birth abortion, euthanasia, homosexual lifestyles as well as homosexual marriages. I find that many Christians believe that there is nothing wrong with a couple living together out of wedlock.

We must never forget that individuals guilty of these sins are invited by Christ to enter his church, but it must be done through true repentance.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV)

Jesus came to show us that our self-interest is much different from what we perceive. It is hypocritical to claim to be a Christian while embracing the self-gratifying values of an ungodly society.

Hypocrisy is motivated by anxiety over the necessities of life. Worry convinces us that life is made up of what we eat and wear. Worry convinces us that it is more important to make a living than make a life.

Luke 12:22-25
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (NIV)

Worry is deceptive because it gives us a false view of life and God. Worry can so consume us that we are blinded to its presence, as we are deceived into thinking that concern for making a living is paramount as we strive to live for Christ.

Worry is hypocritical in its nature because we say we have put our faith in Jesus Christ and we spend our lives fretting over how to make a living. Too many parents think that the all-important task as a parent is to make a living for their children. The only remedy for the hypocrisy motivated by worry is faith in God. We must look at earth from heaven's vantage point and make sure we put God's kingdom first.

Luke 12:32-34
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

"Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere." --The United Church Observer

Hypocrisy is motivated by the tyranny of time. Jesus has just warned us not to be frantic about the necessities of life and now he warns against laziness. We may clearly understand what we are supposed to do, but we a lulled into inactivity because Christ delays his coming.

Luke 12:35-40
"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (NIV)

If you knew you had only one year left to live, how would your life be different? A man commented, "I hope I don't die suddenly. I want to have time to straighten out some relationships." If we believe that this important, then we should not procrastinate. When it comes to serving God, procrastination is so easy. We should be investing ourselves in things that will last for eternity.

Luke 12:45-47
But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. (NIV)

Hypocrisy is motivated by a desire for peace with the world. However, Jesus did not promise us peace with the world.

Luke 12:49-53
"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (NIV)

We may become hypocritical as we try to hold on to our belief in Christ without making any waves with those around us. We may seek peace when we need to stand up and make some waves. However, if we don't make waves, nobody, including yourself, will know that you are alive.

"It's important that people should know what you stand for. It's equally important that they know what you won't stand for." --Mary H. Waldrip

Jesus came to bring fire upon the earth. This fire is designed to destroy the temporal, while it hardens and refines the durable.

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

Trials are designed to promote self-examination.

Haggai 1:5-7
Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. (NIV)

God challenged His people through the prophet Haggai to live examined lives, but self-evaluation does not come easily. The hectic pace of our lives makes it difficult. Some of us are just too comfortable with the way things are. Others shy away from it, knowing that it will be painful to see how little they have accomplished. They are afraid that if they give thought to their ways, they will end up troubled over their state of affairs.


The only hope of overcoming hypocrisy is for us to discern between right and wrong. Jesus said, "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12:57) The only way to guard against hypocrisy is to develop the discernment to know what is right and do it. Some questions can help you examine yourself and see what changes are needed.

Is your life consistent with your beliefs? Your lifestyle should match your theology. If you say that the local church is important, your attendance record ought to reflect that conviction. If you believe giving to God's work is a high priority, your checkbook should show it.

What do you find most enjoyable in life? A favorite television show, a particular sport, your job, or your children can certainly bring you pleasure, but we should find pleasure in spiritual things as well. Prayer, Bible study, and ministering to others ought to give us a sense of joy. If my greatest enjoyment in life derives from the same things as my non-Christian neighbor's does, something is wrong.

Do you offer God your best or just the leftovers? In the Old Testament it was called giving God your firstfruits. In our day many Christians are committed to excellence in their business or profession but content with mediocrity in their spiritual life.

Ultimately Jesus Christ will examine our lives, but right now we have the opportunity to not only engage in self- evaluation but also to make changes.


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