Matthew 23:23-31 (ESV) Jesus said, “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. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”
The latest media firestorm centers around the hypocritical behavior of the current US Speaker of the House. On this there is no need for my comment, but my question is, “What sort of hypocrisy is evident in your life (and mine)?”
Have you ever acted hypocritically? Have you been inconsistent in confessing the right doctrine to others by communing at churches that teach false doctrine? Have you ever sinned publicly in word or deed, giving your friends and neighbors the impression that Christians may behave contrary to their confession of faith? Have you gotten drunk with your friends? Have you told filthy jokes? Have you gossiped or listened to gossip? Have you been lazy in church attendance? Or, worst of all, have you been insincere in your confession of faith?
No matter how much we hate the idea that we too are hypocrites, we cannot avoid God’s judgment on us: our actions have not always been consistent with our beliefs, so we could just as well confess, “I, a poor, miserable hypocrite…” at the beginning of the service.
But here’s the Good News: Jesus never avoided the Pharisees, those hypocrites; He kept on teaching them, eating with them, rebuking them, and inviting them to repent. Some of the Pharisees, like Nicodemus and St. Paul, did repent. They cast aside their self-righteous hypocrisy and found forgiveness in Jesus. So have you, by confessing your sins and receiving Christ’s Absolution.
And the reason Jesus is so ready to forgive our hypocrisy is because He is the only One who isn’t a hypocrite. No, in His life and Words, He was entirely consistent, entirely honest, entirely righteous, perfectly obedient.
And just as Adam’s sin caused all of us to be sinners and receive the sentence of temporal and eternal death, so now Christ’s perfect obedience has caused all of us to be declared righteous, as St. Paul wrote: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Just as Adam’s sin happened only once but its effects span the ages, so also Christ’s death has an eternal impact. The Epistle to the Hebrews (10:12) says, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” A single sacrifice for all the hypocritical sins of all times, and that forgiveness has been accomplished for you, too.
Prayer: Almighty God, merciful Father, since hypocrites and ungodly people are found among the faithful within the Church, and because hypocrisy and lawlessness clings to our old sinful flesh, do not permit Satan to disrupt our congregation through such wickedness. Grant that Your Word may bring all of us to repentance and faith. Grant us patience and kindness and a forgiving heart toward all. Help us, for the sake of all in our congregation, to speak the truth in love; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.