“Woe to you, hypocrites!” Jesus cried this seven times and he addressed it to the scribes and Pharisees. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:27). The same is true of us today. It is often the case that others consider us believers, but in fact our hearts are full of all sins – bitterness, judgment, pride, lying, strife and so on.
Jesus calls this situation hypocrisy. The symbolic is pious and godly, but in reality he is not. This is a particularly ugly form of falsehood, for the fear of God is nothing but life with God, serving Him who is Light and Truth. That is why Jesus says that there is a serious judgment for the hypocrites. He warns of the terrible fate of the “pious” hypocrites: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the judgment of hell?” (Matthew 23:33) Jesus’ warning shows that satan, who has been a deceiver and a liar since the beginning of time, is trying with all his might to redeem us who were delivered from him by the grace of God. Now he wants to catch us in a net of hypocrisy without us realizing it. He can accomplish this quite easily because we who believe in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer are in danger of being too sure that we are already living for Jesus and walking in the reality of divine truth by the word of God. Often our Christian life is just a façade. Behind it is a different reality.
For example, we can say that Jesus has reconciled us and we can preach the atonement, but still not reconcile with anyone, hide bitterness and critical thoughts in our hearts. Yet our ears hear not the judgment of Jesus concerning himself, Thou hypocrite. (Luke 6:42), Jesus knows full well that we do not live by what we say.
Jesus cried out, “Woe to you!” what He called to the Pharisees also applies to us when we hypocritically claim to be disciples of Jesus, but at the same time refuse to take up our cross. We complain about every burden, deficiency and any suffering, we complain when the slightest thing seems unpleasant. When we get into an inconvenience, we get upset and angry. Thinking that people haven’t treated us well enough. But Jesus said, “He that beareth not his cross, and walketh after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). We can have a special gift of preaching and seemingly win souls for the Lord, we can spend a lot of time and energy serving and praying to the Kingdom of God, but Jesus still has to threaten us with judgment. Why? Because serving Jesus can be like a show to us. By working seemingly for the Kingdom of God, we are actually interested in Jesus and His glory, as we may think. We do not do our service out of love for Jesus, but rather out of selfish interest in gaining admiration and making a name for ourselves. This means that we do everything with a hidden meaning. Yes, we can do many things for Jesus: work miracles, heal the sick, but still be a prey to satan — if at the same time we do not do God’s will as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Ten Commandments. ”Many say to me that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many great works?” And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity ”(Matthew 7: 22-23). The enemy rejoices in finding criticalness, slander, lustful desires, maybe some kind of unrestrainedness, little love for our parents, and so on. The trickiest thing from the enemy is to keep us Christians from realizing that we are living a two-sided life.
Living hypocritically means believing that we are committed Christians, we pray a lot, we read the Bible, we are active in Christian fellowship, maybe even in missionary work but we still do not practice what we read in the Bible, we pray for others and we tell them what they should do but we do not do it ourselves. As hypocrites, we do not notice that we have fallen asleep in deceptive confidence, that we are convinced of our salvation, and that we will one day go to heaven. While satan laughs contemptuously at us. That is a startling fact that should wake us up. If we live such a hypocritical life, we will be guilty of our fellow human beings. Not only do we question the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of others, but we also urge them to turn away from Jesus, and we are struck by Jesus’ frightening decision. “… And cuts it in half and gives him the same place as the hypocrites; there is howling and gnashing of teeth. ” (Matthew 24:51). As hypocrites, we become children of hell “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You will travel through the seas and continents to convert even one person into your faith, and when that happens, you will make him hellish, twice as much as you are. ” (Matthew 23:15).
Hypocrisy causes God’s wrath, for God is satisfied only if we live our daily lives sincerely according to His Word. There is hardly any sin other than hypocrisy, which Jesus would threaten to judge so harshly, therefore we must make every effort to get rid of the chains of this evil.
How is it possible? First, the root of hypocrisy must be recognized. Jesus calls the pious, hypocritical Pharisees blind: “Woe unto you, ye blind guides.” (Matthew 23:16). What are they blind at? They do not see their own weaknesses and sin. They think they are perfect, so whenever we think we are good Christians, we should be filled with sacred fear and ask ourselves if we have become hypocritical. If we do not want to fall into the sin of hypocrisy, we must ask Jesus over and over again: Lighten me in the light of your truth and expose everything that is not pure in my life.”
In order to escape hypocrisy and to be prevented from falling into it, we must repeatedly ask for the light of Jesus’ truth. Our eyes must be open, so that we see our darkness, self-centeredness and spiritual drowsiness. Only if we are able to notice our sins and be horrified can we bring them to Jesus to get rid of them. A sick person can only be helped if he acknowledges and admits that he is ill. Otherwise, he will not go to the doctor and the disease will get worse, and if the disease is dangerous, it could be fatal. Jesus’ disciples should follow the advice: be not sure that you are all right. Unbeknownst to us, we can retain a very serious sin hidden in our lives. Only through serious self-doubt and vigilance can we avoid the danger of apparent holiness.
We can probably experience one thing at a time. Every time we bring our thoughts, words, and deeds into the light of truth and measure our lives quite specifically with the norms of Scripture, we are amazed and frightened by the difference between what it seems to be and the reality. We know what is in Scripture, but we do not apply it in our practical lives. We confuse knowledge and action. When we use the Scriptures as the norm in our lives, we begin to hate the hypocrisy of our lives and serious repentance leads us into a religious struggle and makes us true disciples.
Trying to live vigilantly according to God’s Word takes time to reflect. It is advisable to take one Sunday or another day each month to keep track. Let us take a few quiet hours for spiritual reckoning, using God’s commandments as a mirror and asking God to test the authenticity of our discipleship. His light falls on the world of our appearance, through which we realize the truth about ourselves and again recognize sin as it really is.
It also helps us when we ask our loved ones what we have said, done and do wrong. Only those who want to hear the truth about themselves will be freed from the evils that bind them. Those who witness the sin of their hypocrisy are forced to go to the Doctor who is the only one who can cure this disease: Jesus, who is the Truth. His redemption is a guarantee — if we seize that faith, we can get rid of the falsehood in our devotional life.
Excerpt from M. Basilea Schlink’s book “You Will Not Remain”