Over the past month or so, I have preached sermons focusing on us as the stewards of God. You may recall that I focused on us being humble and remembering that we were once sinners in my sermon – The Justified Sinner. I also focused a great deal on not being oppressive and a stumbling block to others in your faith in my sermon – The Oppressive Brother. Today, I want to focus on another type of believer – the believer that becomes a hypocrite.
A Warning Against Being Hypocrites
I referenced my key verse for today in last Sunday’s sermon – Keeping Your Anger in Check. We saw in this scripture that Jesus was displeased with the religious leaders of His day. He was not happy with the way they ministered (tended) to the Jews. The scribes and Pharisees of that day taught the Mosaic Law but they themselves were not necessarily living by the law.
We will see Him say to both the apostles and all of the multitudes following Him, “whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do (v.3).” So, why would Jesus be teaching against those religious leaders? Shouldn’t those religious leaders have been shining examples for the people to follow? Of course the answer should be yes, but let’s take a look at what Jesus said about the actions of those leaders.
Charges of being a hypocrite
Jesus first charges that those religious leaders burdened the people with burdens too hard to bear and would not help the people they had burdened (v.4). He then charges that they did their works to be seen by others; therefore, they did their works so that they could be praised and glorified by others (Matt. 23:5). (As I have warned in the past, be wary of those that say they are doing the work of God so that they can be praised and glorified.)
Ultimately, Jesus charged that the religious leaders did all of these things against what they actually taught in the Mosaic Law. Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees exactly what they were — hypocrites! So, these were men that would tell you that they believed in God, but Jesus (God in the flesh) charged them with being a hypocrite. Of these religious leaders, Jesus said that they shut up (closed off) the kingdom of heaven from themselves and against men (Matt. 23:13). (Being a hypocrite of the law seems a very heavy charge to me.)
A new steward
What we must understand from this teaching is that Jesus was preparing those that would minister in His name. Under the Mosaic Law, the Lord desired stewards that would set the example others should follow so that they could become holy and enter the heavenly kingdom. I tell you today that Jesus saw what those stewards were doing firsthand and knew that the stewards of the gospel could not go in that same way!
The stewards of the new covenant – the gospel – would need to be a better breed of stewards compared to those of the old covenant. So, I want you to understand that there was an objective here. The objective: those who minister Christ will not become a hypocrite of the law of Christ, but help lead people to the kingdom of heaven instead of shut it up. The question for every professed believer of Christ is whether or not we have done as Christ wished or have we become the scribes and Pharisees of old? Have we become a believer that is a hypocrite to the gospel of Christ?
Live by the Gospel
As I have said before, this message is one of great importance to me and one I focus on a lot. I focus on this a lot because we often overlook the fact that we are the representatives of Christ. As I look around at our society and how people act, there are times I begin to wonder what is being taught and preached to others that call themselves Christians.
For the past month, I have been meditating on the thought – What is our role as Christians? Again, this has been a thought of mine because I just sit and watch – I’m a very observant person. Quite frankly: something is not right with many of those who proclaim to be ministering Christ. I say this because it seems many people are not necessarily practicing what they are preaching. Many have become a hypocrite to their professed faith.
As I have said in recent weeks, some believe that our role as a Christian is to “speak the truth”. This certainly sounds good but how that truth is ministered is of the utmost importance. There are some believers who minister the truth by pointing out the sins of others and then condemning the sin. (That certainly seems off to me.) Some go as far to dictate their religion onto others. (Again, that does not seem right.) Then there are others who behave rudely and apathetically to the plight of others. (Again, none of this seems like it should be the way of the steward of the gospel of Christ.)
The true gospel to live by
From what Christ says in the key verse, in as much as we are supposed to preach the gospel, we are to also live by the gospel as well – this was His main point! When one chooses to preach the gospel but not live by it, this leads them into going the hypocrite way of those scribes and Pharisees. Let us remember from our recent Sunday school lessons, the principle of Mosaic Law was about loving God and loving others. We know that the law of Christ is the same!
As you have repeatedly heard me say, Jesus said that we should love God with all our heart and all our spirit (Matt. 22:37). He likewise said that we should then love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39). These are two principles of the gospel of Christ that we seem to forget! The gospel of Christ, we know, is the life of Christ, His death, and His resurrection. Yet, I tell you that this view of the gospel is a view in its simplest form.
Many people will preach the gospel in its most simplest form but forget the fact that they must practice what they preach. Yes, we know that we are supposed to love the Lord and love others, but again, I want you to understand this love. This love should be patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4). This love should also bear all things, believe, hope, and endure all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
Most importantly, let us remember that the gospel of Christ is also about forgiveness. Jesus taught that there is forgiveness of sins through faith in Him – not condemnation (John 3:16). This is what hurts me so much about those preaching Christ but not practicing Christ – there is no bearing all things and no enduring all things with and for others. (We only do for those who are in a bubble. Our society has been and even more so now divides itself among our bubbles.)
A Choice to Make
So what should we be preaching and practicing? We should be preaching and practicing: loving God, loving others, and forgiveness for one’s wrongdoings (trespasses) against God. What should we not be practicing? We should not be practicing: behaving rudely, mistreating others, burdening others, hating others for whatever reason, and then condemning others. That is not the role of the Christian! The Christian should be willing to sit down with all people and offer a relief to the burdens that many are dealing with today!
Jesus taught that we should not raise ourselves up to a position of looking down on others, but that those who are “great” should serve (Matt. 23:8-11). The role of a Christian is to be a humble servant – not haughty, boastful, or arrogant. Those who raise themselves up to be greater than others, but don’t work to serve all people are in no way practicing the law of Christ. No, that is the practice of the way of the hypocrite.
The scribes and Pharisees were upset when Jesus sat down with sinners so we know that those stewards would not take time out for the sinner – they simply looked down on them (Luke 15:2). I’m not truly certain they much helped those who were in need because they even got upset at Jesus for healing people on sabbath (Luke 14:1-6).
What will you become?
The hypocrite moves only with the self interest to build him or herself up. They will preach (say or minister) one thing and do (or support) the opposite. We as the stewards of Christ must be better than this! Our role is one where we should look to lend our hand and voice for all people! The question is: who (or what) will you become? The believer that is a hypocrite or a true steward of the gospel?
Before I end, I want you to notice who it is that gets rewarded at the end (Matt. 25:31-36). Jesus said that there is a reward for those that lived by the gospel and helped those in need (the hungry, thirsty, those without clothes, the sick, those in prison, and the stranger). Yet, notice those who Jesus will one day not be rewarded (Matt. 7:22-23). Jesus said that in that day, there will be many who will say, I prophesied (minister) in your name but not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The question we will all have to answer is whether or not we lived by the gospel of Christ that we ministered and preached. All of us are ministers and stewards of God; we become that the day we genuinely believe in Him. Our faith in Him is ministered through our actions and even through the actions we support. We must ensure that we are living by the principles of loving God and loving our neighbors in what we preach and how we live. That is: being patient and kind to others; bearing (supporting) others; and treating others as we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).