Hypocrisy is perhaps the most hideous and most repulsive sin both to God and to your fellow man. The hypocrite is at his most dangerous and most damaging in the church. The hypocrite often turns out to be the destroyer of every good thing in a fellowship. The biggest problem with hypocrisy is that it is hard to cure. It’s easier to cure a wicked man who doesn’t know better than it is to cure a hypocrite who knows the truth, but finds the truth inconvenient to his agenda.
The Pharisees are the prime example of hypocrites in the New Testament. They are externally friendly toward Jesus. They are nice enough to invite him to a banquet in the home of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. Yet while Jesus is there, they were watching him carefully. They weren’t watching Him to learn something. They were watching Him to catch Him in some point of doctrine in order to build a case against Him.
The Pharisees are very eager in external worship. We saw this a few weeks ago when Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee prays in the temple, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. He makes a big show of his piety. Yet the Pharisee’s heart is faithless and loveless. Jesus deals with the Pharisees and Scribes in His woes in Matthew chapter 23. For example, 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.
Everything the Pharisee says and does is external humility. In their heart of hearts lies pride and contempt of the neighbor. Just by doing and saying the right thing, the Pharisee believes that is enough to be saved. The condition of your heart doesn’t matter. His theology becomes an athletic shoe slogan: Just do it. The mere performance of the deed is what matters. The condition of your soul is irrelevant.
That was one of the major battles of the Reformation as well. Roman Catholic theology at that time taught that the mere performance of a particular liturgical rite worked forgiveness and salvation for those who witnessed it. The priest went through the motions. You watched him do it. As you watched, whatever the work that was being worked thus worked. Who cares what you thought about it or if you were even paying attention. That’s why there were bells. Hey! Pay attention now! Something is happening that’s good for you.
Hypocrisy is still around today. There’s a church full of hypocrites right now, including the one preaching this sermon. Smart aleck people who think they want to be Christian sometimes complain that they would actually practice the faith if it wasn’t for all the hypocrites in a Christian congregation. I am happy to report that Christian congregations this side of eternity are 100-percent non-hypocrite free places! Hypocrites are always welcomed here.
Hypocrites are all over the pages of Holy Scripture. Cain was a hypocrite. So was Joab with Abner and Amasa. Judas Iscariot is perhaps the most infamous hypocrite of all because he pretended to care for the poor and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. You might add the so-called “Sunday morning” or “Saturday night” Christian to this list. These are the folks who attend worship with zeal, yet never practice anything they hear in church the rest of the week. They love God and neighbor, but only when it is to their advantage.
Worse yet are hypocrites who say they love God’s Word, yet have no love toward God or neighbor outside of the time they spend in His house. They major in minors. They quarrel over every little thing. They demand to get their way at every opportunity. They never speak about anyone in the kindest way. They even go as far as to deny someone is a Christian unless they believe exactly the same way they believe, especially if what they believe has no ground in Scripture.
But wait, it gets worse. The Pharisaical kind of hypocrisy is also seen in Christian congregations. These people want justice, but not the kind of justice God deals out in Christ. They love to confess their sins and receive absolution, then turn around and lay hands on their neighbor in order to harm them. They speak words of praise in God’s house, and speak words of condemnation to everyone else in almost the same breath. These people think that by showing up, paying their dues, and being seen is good enough for God. Anything else that is done doesn’t matter.
It matters. Sin matters. The condition of your soul matters. You are in one of these states of hypocrisy at one time or another. All men are hypocrites by nature because all men are sinners by nature. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. The Psalmist writes, I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” Isaiah writes, We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. God’s Word breaks your exaltation into pieces. His killing Law shows you just how nasty you are toward God and your fellow man. It shows you, O man, what should be your manner of life. Yet your manner of life doesn’t even begin to measure up to the mark God sets for His children.
There is one righteous Man on earth Who does good and never sins. His name is Jesus Christ. He comes today with healing for you. He breaks the hypocrite to pieces with His words, and heals the broken-hearted in body and soul. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not? That’s what the Sabbath is about, isn’t it? Healing. Your healing. Your rest in Jesus Christ, Who rested in the tomb to fulfill the Sabbath in your place. Your redemption, your consolation of forgiveness, rests on Christ the Sabbath Keeper.
Keeping the Sabbath does not mean you must not shop or you must not do any work. Keeping the Sabbath means gladly to hear and to learn preaching and God’s Word. Hypocrisy dies and is buried in the tomb with Jesus. It is confessed, forgiven, and forgotten right here. You leave this house today put right again with God and your neighbor.
You’ll be a hypocrite again this week. You will fall short of the standard God expects from you. God willing, you’ll be back again next week to confess, be forgiven, and receive the gifts of healing as you wait for ultimate healing in the resurrection. Hypocrisy’s end is death. Death’s end is Christ’s life for you. Believe it for His sake.