Sermon: The Marks of Hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-54)

Luke 11.37-54 click here for audio

The Marks of Hypocrisy

Luke 11:37-54

The portion of God’s Word set before us today is a very important section.  We’ll see Jesus’ condemnation of the religious system that the Pharisees and the Scribes had built in His day.

As we look to the condemnation of the religious leaders, let’s be very careful that we don’t write off these verses because we think that they don’t apply to us.  We all have a root of Phariseeism living within us.  We must kill it and guard against allowing it to guide us.   If we allow hypocrisy and legalism to dominate us we will miss the Gospel and miss holiness.

They were associated with God but He was not the center of their life.  For them, God was simply one part among many things they worshipped.  Jesus shows us the other things and then pronounces Divine judgment upon them.  Jesus comes down extremely hard on these religious leaders and even declares six woes upon them collectively.

Now Jesus begins the woes. A woe is a cry for God’s just judgment in light of an action that deserves a divine response (see 6:24-26).[1]

As I read this text, please let’s place ourselves in the room and understand Jesus is speaking to us as well.  He points out our sinfulness as well as theirs.  Understand the difference is we are not condemned with them but if we listen to Jesus’ condemning words, we are given grace.  Our responsibility is to use the searchlight of Scripture and shine it into the dark reaches of our souls to see if there is any trace of Phariseeism within us.

Please, hear God’s Word…

Lk 11:37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table.

Lk 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.

Lk 11:39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

Lk 11:40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

Lk 11:41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Lk 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Lk 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

Lk 11:44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

Lk 11:45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.”

Lk 11:46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

Lk 11:47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed.

Lk 11:48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.

Lk 11:49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’

Lk 11:50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,

Lk 11:51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.

Lk 11:52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

Lk 11:53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things,

Lk 11:54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

In this rebuke of the Pharisees and the Scribes, Jesus shows us what we must guard against if we would be pleasing to God.  He shows us the marks of a Pharisee or more clearly, the marks of HYPOCRISY:

Marks of Hypocrisy…

1. The Mark of Judging Others By Human Standards

Lk 11:37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table.

Lk 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.

To understand these two verses is to look back into the man-made tradition of ritual washing.  Before they ate, the Pharisees invented a practice of a ritual hand washing.  They would pour water on one hand with a pitcher and then take the pitcher in the other hand and pour the water on their other hand.  Often times the water itself was not clean.  It was simply a man made tradition.  Later it developed into such a formal act that servant would pour the water because in touching the handle on the container, they polluted themselves again.

They developed a very complicated and ritualistic way of washing their hands.  Jesus wasn’t playing along with the Pharisee’s game.  Judging others is a mark of a Pharisee.  When man-made rituals are added to God’s Word, the traditions of man always become the standards and not the Word of God.

The Pharisee’s man-made traditions had become so dominating in his life that he even began to judge Jesus!  Jesus falls short of man-made standards of holiness.

2. The Mark of Looking on the Outside and Ignoring the Inside

Lk 11:39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

Lk 11:40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

Lk 11:41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

These religious leaders were more concerned with looking holy than actually being holy.  This may, in fact, be the dish that the ritual hand washing was done in.  It was shinny on the outside but inside it was filthy dirty.  It’s much more important for the inside of a bowl or dish to be clean than the outside.  Here the point is that if the inside is clean the outside will be clean as well.

So, Jesus goes outside of the accepted religious boundaries marking Himself as an outsider to the Pharisaical system and yet Luke calls Him Lord.  The Pharisee, on the other hand was within social norms and is called a fool by Jesus.

Here, a fool is a person who looks the part on the outside but in reality they are not what they pretend to be.

What about us?  Are we more concerned with looking the part of a Christian or actually being a Christian?  Are you as concerned with holiness on Monday as you are on Sunday?  Are you a Christian example to your coworkers?  Do you uphold biblical standards when around non-believers or are you more apt to act like them?

These guys were very good at giving alms to the poor so others could see them. Jesus says why don’t you do that sort of stuff on the inside?  If you practice true worship and service on the inside, the outside will also worship God.

3. The Mark of Substituting Minors for Majors

Lk 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

They were so careful as to tithe even on the small herbs that grew in their garden in order to be acknowledged by others but they totally left out the main things.

Those involved in a works based religion will always keep the technical aspects of their man-made religion at the expense of the things ordained by God.  They could count their pennies in front of everyone in order to be seen as faithful tithers but when it came time to show God’s love and mercy to someone else, their worship came up empty.  They couldn’t show justice and the love of God, but they could throw their pennies into the coffer.

Do we ever highlight minor things because we can accomplish those at the expense of true Christianity?  Have we whittled down God’s standards so that we can accomplish them without His help.

They added to God’s Word and then over time God’s Word had been forgotten and in place of truth came a man-made set of standards that could be accomplished by lost people.

4. The Mark of the Fear of Man

Lk 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

The end of their religion was the approval of others.  They feared man rather than God.  If you gave these guys the choice between having a time of secret prayer or sitting in the front row, they would pick the best seat.  They loved attention and loved when people saw them and admired them for their religiosity.

That’s why they invented so many traditions because they could work real hard and excel at them and look very important and religious.

They stood up so everyone could see them.  They practiced good deeds not because they were the right things to do but so other would applaud them.

Do we care more about what others think of us or what God thinks?  Jesus was unwilling to do the ritual of hand washing just to appease man.  He knew that true religion comes from a saved heart.  Jesus would not go with the flow.  When everyone knelt down to do some act that only made people admire you, He stood back and would not do it.

Are we those who do what’s right by God’s standards or are we more concerned with fitting in?

5. The Mark of Teaching Hypocrisy to Others

Lk 11:44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees were on a mission in all the land surrounding Jerusalem to find all the unmarked graves and mark them.  It wasn’t to honor the dead but to maintain their tradition.  The Book of Leviticus is clear that to touch a dead animal or dead person was to become unclean.  That’s God’s Law.  The Pharisees added to it by saying to walk over someone’s grave was to become unclean.  So, all over the city people were accidentally walking over graves and they were being told that they were now unclean.

Jesus declares that the Pharisees are, in fact, the unmarked graves.  When people come in contact with them they become unclean.  The reason is because the people think the Pharisees are leading them closer to God but the reality was that they were leading them to judgment.

Their hypocrisy was like a disease that others were being infected with.  People came to these religious leaders for help and teaching and were taught lies and deceit.  These guys were becoming more and more sought after and were leading more and more people away from God toward a works based religion.

We must be careful that what we teach is the Word of God and only the Word of God.  Opinions and traditions must never be placed on the level of the truth of Scripture.  That’s why Scripture must try everything.  When we make certain statements they must originate from Scripture not from our minds.

6. Mark of Making Christianity More Difficult

Lk 11:45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.”

Lk 11:46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers…

Lk 11:52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

Man-made traditions confuse and add to what God requires.  God has a set of standards found in the Bible.  These ethical requirements of God’s must be lived out in the lives of believers.  When we understand that we live in a corrupt world and battle our own sinful nature, these godly standards are hard enough without adding to them.

Let’s be a people who strive for God’s holy standards not someone elses.

7. Mark of Speaking the Language

Lk 11:47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed.

Lk 11:48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.

Lk 11:49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’

Lk 11:50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,

Lk 11:51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.

The generation in Jesus’ day went around honoring the very prophets that their forefathers killed.  It was all a show.  It was all to look righteous.  They looked as if they were on the same side as those fallen Prophets, yet they did not follow the Prophet’s teachings.

Jesus uses Abel who was killed by Cain (Genesis) to Zechariah (2 Chron. 20)

2 Chr 24:20 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.'”

2 Chr 24:21 But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.

Genesis-Chronicles, the practice of religious people has been to kill those who come with a true message from God.  This is because lost people can keep man-made standards, godly standards they cannot be kept.

So what’s the remedy to the disease of hypocrisy?

1. Realize that God looks at the heart

1 Sm 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

The Pharisees believed the lie that God sees as man sees.  In other words, what they though would impress God was what impressed most everyone around them.  They were wrong.  God sees with ex-ray vision the true nature of our soul.  He sees what man does not see.

Ask yourself, Is my Christianity mainly for others to see or for God to see?

2.  The Gospel of Grace

Lk 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

Lk 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

Lk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Lk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Lk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee is puffed up and proud of his many accomplishments while the tax collector understands his wretchedness and pleads for God to be merciful.  The Gospel of Grace is the best remedy for hypocrisy.

 


[1] Bock on Luke

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