Don’t Be a Hypocrite

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Understanding the Word

Matthew 23:13–36 (ESV)

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears 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 cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After warning his disciples about the Pharisees and scribes in the first twelve verses, Jesus turned to the religious leaders and told them what he thought of their religion. Jesus pulled no punches and repeatedly called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites.” Even today, no one would like to be labeled in this way. In Greek culture, the word hypocrite was used to speak of the actor who played many roles in stage performances. An actor would change roles by simply changing masks.

In calling the Pharisees and scribes hypocrites, Jesus condemned them for saying and teaching one thing, but living differently. Often, their external actions may have seemed holy and righteous, but their true inner identities were far from what their external actions indicated. All they did was for religious observance or to be noticed by others. They were not sincere followers of God who were motivated by love. The danger in their teaching and in their own lives was that it was easy to mistake external rule keeping with true devotion to the Lord.

We must be careful even today that we do not fall into the mistake and trap of these leaders. Religious observance for the sake of religion does not please God. Our Lord desires worshipers who follow and obey out of love and a sincere heart. This is only possible when we realize we cannot do that on our own and that we need the Lord to change us from the inside out. When we repent of our sin and call out to be saved, God pours out his Spirit into our lives and gives us new life as a new creation. Through our transformed life and the continual presence of the Holy Spirit, we are able to love the Lord and worship him in sincerity.

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Is Your Burden Great?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 23:1–12 (ESV)

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus warned his disciples about the scribes and Pharisees. These teachers of the law were known for putting great burdens on people. They taught rules and regulations that were difficult for the people to live under. However, these teachers often did not practice their own teachings. What they required of others, they did not require of themselves. The Pharisees were known for their extra rules and regulations that “put a fence around the Law.” They desired so much to protect the Law that they came up with extra regulations of their own to make sure people did not break the Mosaic Law.

In contrast to the Pharisees’ burdensome teaching, Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

The legalism of the Pharisees was a weight no one could bear, not even the Pharisees. It only discouraged and condemned those who tried. Jesus did not come to add to our burden by adding to the Law. He came to fulfill the Law for us and give us life through his name. In Christ, we are free from the Law and can serve our Lord from a motivation of love, thanksgiving, and praise. Praise Christ for the rest we find in him!

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Beware of Those Who Love Attention

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I only publish a suggested Scripture reading with no other passage notes or personal thoughts. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are currently reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the New Testament Gospels.

Reading the Word

Luke 20:45–47 (ESV)

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

The Self-Righteous

Luke 157 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 15:1–7 (ESV)

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Parallel Text: Matthew 18:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we enter into chapter fifteen of Luke, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus spending time with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus tells three parables to challenge the mindset of these religious leaders who felt they were more worthy of God’s favor because of their superior righteousness.

The first parable is about a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd had one hundred sheep, but lost one. Unwilling to lose any of his sheep, the shepherd searched until he found the lost one. Upon finding the lost sheep, the shepherd threw a party. Jesus said this is what heaven is like when a sinner repents. There is much celebration over the lost person who is now found.

Why did Jesus say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance? Understanding this last verse is the key to understanding this parable. The message of Scripture is that there are no righteous persons who need no repentance. In fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus’ statement then was to address the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They believed they were righteous and had no need to repent. In actuality, they too were sinners and no better off than the tax collectors and sinners that they looked down on. Heaven does not rejoice at those who believe they are righteous because it means they are still lost and in need of salvation.

It is clear that no one is good enough to please God. We are all sinners and must call out for forgiveness. It is the only way to be saved and the Shepherd is seeking out every lost sheep.

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A Matter of the Heart

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Reading the Word

Mark 7:1–23 (ESV)

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 15:1-20

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus’ followers were eating without washing their hands properly. This is an example of how the religious leaders had established their own rules about how things should be done that were not a part of God’s word. Jesus responded by quoting from Isaiah 29:13 and accusing the Pharisees with going through the outward motions of holiness while their hearts were not in the right place. Jesus then stressed that what goes into the body does not defile it. It is the things that come from the heart that defile a person. Sin is ultimately a heart issue.

With these words, we find a warning against religious activity and legalism. Both of these concern themselves with external actions and measure themselves by adhering to such actions: regular church attendance, financial gifts, not watching TV or going to the movies, not drinking alcohol, not working on Sunday, etc. While there may be good reasons for some of these actions listed, the religious person and the legalist uses lists of dos and don’ts to show they are spiritual and in a right relationship to God. They fail to see that their hearts are desperately wicked and that they are in need of grace and forgiveness.

Religious activity and the ability to keep rules will never save anyone. We must realize our sinfulness and call out to Christ for forgiveness. It is only by the righteousness that he gives to us and the penalty for sin that he pays for us that allows us to stand before a holy God. In this passage we are forced to ask ourselves what we are counting on to make us right with God. Only Christ will do.

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Old and New Treasure

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Reading the Word

Matthew 13:51–52 (ESV)

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The disciples went to Jesus in Matthew 13:36 and asked him to explain the Parable of the Weeds. He explained the parable to them and then told them three more shorts ones. After this he asked his disciples, “Have you understood all of these things?” They replied that they had. Jesus then called his disciples “scribes” who had been trained for the kingdom of heaven.

A scribe was an expert in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus often condemned the scribes of his day for not understanding the word of God. These verses tell us that Jesus was training up a new group of scribes who would truly know how to interpret the Scriptures to the people. These new scribes, Jesus’ disciples, would be able to teach both what was already written in the Old Testament and also the new teaching of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament and they would be able to explain how it all held together.

The Bible is one grand story of the redemption of mankind from sin. The Old Testament Scriptures point forward to Jesus coming into the world as the Messiah and Savior of all. The New Testament was written to reflect back on how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promises and also the things Jesus said and did, especially the crucifixion and resurrection. We cannot read the Bible and understand it if we do not read it with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

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I Came Not To Call the Righteous

The Meal in the House of Matthew

The Meal in the House of Matthew (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!

The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.

What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.

Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!