When Jesus warned His disciples to guard themselves against the ‘yeast of the Pharisees,‘ He was warning them to guard themselves against the Pharisees’ teachings. The Pharisees had perverted God’s Word and His Law. But how were the disciples supposed to know that their leaders were perverting the Truth? Because the disciples were expected to know God’s Word and His Law, they were expected to recognize that the Pharisees teachings and actions conflicted with God’s Word and Law. Or, to put it in simpler terms, Jesus expected His disciples to recognize the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. A careful reading of Scripture will reveal that Jesus often confronted hypocrisy. But why? What is it that hypocrisy is supposed to teach us? Is it supposed to indicate that what is being taught is wrong, or is it supposed to teach us something else? Well, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, there is a very famous passage in Scripture which speaks directly to this question.
The Adulterous Woman
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [b]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
This passage is about Jesus directly confronting the Pharisees’ hypocrisy (for a fuller discussion, please read this link). Jesus did not let the adulteress go free because the Pharisees were wrong about their accusations or because He disagreed with the law. Jesus let her go free because the Pharisees were being hypocritical. They claimed to be the experts in and caretakers of the law, so they knew that, before anyone could be stoned for adultery, they had to produce both parties (the man and woman) who had been caught in the act by two or more witnesses. Furthermore, both witnesses had to testify to the act and a judge had to find the accused guilty. So, by demanding that Christ condemn the accused woman, they were demanding that Jesus break the law. Jesus knew this, and His response upheld the law while shining a spotlight on the sin in every heart taking place in this act. By demanding that the person without sin cast the first stone, He was telling them that, if they truly believed they were acting lawfully at that moment, then they should obey the law and throw the first stone to execute the accused. But because everyone — including the Pharisees — knew they were guilty of hypocrisy, no one threw a stone. Instead, they left. But notice: Jesus told the accused to stop sinning, which reveals she was guilty and Jesus knew it. So the penalty would have been justified — had the people followed the law (which also teaches us that the ends do not justify the means).
You see, hypocrisy does not mean that what we say about right and wrong is incorrect; it is just an indication that we do not truly believe what we say. This is a profound realization, as in the case of right and wrong, it reveals that we reject God’s Laws. If we claim to love the Lord and His Law, but we cannot obey, then do we really love Him or His Law? Scripture would suggest the answer is no! And that is the other lesson: that we cannot obey God’s Law. Humans simply cannot obey the Lord without going astray. This is the essence of sin: a violation of God’s Law. And that is what hypocrisy is: a sin. It is bearing false witness. We say one thing, but we do another. Well, if you say something that your actions reveal you do not believe, then you have borne false witness, and that is sin (read this link for more on this aspect of hypocrisy). But we can go one step further. Even if we reject God’s Law and we create our own idea of right and wrong (which is claiming to be God), we will still break those rules.
There is not one among us who can even keep our own idea of right and wrong, so, even when it comes to our own rules, we are all hypocrites. God’s Law is infinitely higher than man’s, so how can any of us be expected to obey God’s Law when we can’t even obey our own? The answer is we cannot, and this is meant to help us understand our need for a Savior. It is also meant to teach us that there is a God (how can there be a perfect moral law without a perfect law giver?) and that only He can save us (how can someone who cannot even obey their own laws save themselves?). Thankfully, God loves us in spite of ourselves, and He has provided a Savior — Jesus Christ! All we have to do to be forgiven and saved is to humble ourselves and admit that we are hypocrites (sinners) and ask Him for forgiveness. Then ask Him into our lives and to become the Lord of our lives. If we do this, it won’t stop us from being sinners, but it will start us down a path that will open our eyes to our hypocrisy — which then helps us avoid it because we chose not to be hypocrites. This is what Christians mean when they say:
“We are not perfect, just forgiven.”
So, yes, Christians are hypocrites, and that tells you we still break God’s Law. But we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, and Him living in us helps us to see that we are hypocrites. This means we know the Truth. So, if we do wrong, when other believers confront us and show us where we have done wrong, we acknowledge it and stop doing wrong. This is called repentance. However, if a person who claims to be a Christian is confronted with the Lord’s Word and they still refuse to stop doing wrong… Well, that is what hypocrisy is meant to teach us: that those who say one thing and act another do not truly believe what they say. In the case of an unrepentant ‘Christian,’ Scripture would suggest they are not Christians at all. After all, Jesus is the one who said that those who call themselves by His name but do not do as He commanded will be turned away by Him!
Therefore, pay attention to hypocrisy. It is meant to warn and teach us. When you see it, look for what is wrong and act accordingly — especially if you find it in yourself. After all, it is directly connected to your relationship with our Lord, and He doesn’t want anything to come between us and Himself. So, watch for the signs that indicate we are getting in our own way in our relationship with Jesus. God bless (to read my companion post on the Natural Law aspects of this subject, please click here).
[NOTE: I no longer think of my voice as anything special. There was a time when I believed I had something important to say, but not so much these days. I write now because I feel driven to do so. Something inside me will not let me rest until I post the pages you just read. I’d just as soon not bother anymore. It all seems like no one is listening and I do more harm than good. So I have come to trust that whatever it is driving me has all this under control. Personally, I believe it is God, but others may not. All I ask is that, if anything I write helps you, or you think it might help others in any way, please, share this page. Re-blog it, share it on FB or send the link to your friends. So long as you feel it will do more good than harm, then please, use this page however you wish. Thank you.]