You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:24-28
The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God. Luke 16:14-15
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
We begin with three phrases from our passages above: "Outwardly you look like righteous people," "You like to appear righteous in public," and "People judge by outward appearance. There are three corresponding phrases that go with each of the ones already mentioned: "but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness," "but God knows your hearts," and "but the Lord looks at the heart." Hypocrisy is not about falling short, it is about purposely portraying ourselves to be what we are not. The Luke passage above says, "What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God." The world of that day (the religious system and it leaders seemingly leading the way) focused on and rewarded appearance. It is the same today and it is still detestable to God. God is concerned about the total person inside and out. If the inside is taken care of, the outside will be fine.
All this is true but there is something here to which we need to attach ourselves that can make all the difference. We cannot "appear" alright to God and not be alright. God knows exactly who and what we are. This can overwhelm us but remember God loves us right where we are. In other words, we don't have to be alright to come to God. We come to God because we are not alright and this is perfectly alright. He loves us and he will make us fully into all that he wants us to be inside and out. Yes, he detests the hypocrisy of being oriented to outward appearance, but he delights in the genuineness of our being open, honest, and transparent before him. Understand that outward appearance and self-righteousness are what hypocrisy is all about. The people and practices of Christian systems with this orientation pull at us and confuse while all the while repelling a world of lost people who so desperately need Christ. This is not what God is all about - HE IS SAFE and being in his presence is a SAFE place to be. God is available right now and he is waiting for you.
Lord, you say, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). I come to you now. Break the chains of religiosity that have been formed over the years and set me free. Help me to be open, honest, and transparent in the safety of your loving and powerful presence. I give my heart and life fully to you, Lord.
Posted on Wed, March 18, 2015
by Ken Hart