Jesus hated hypocrisy. Most people do. But there are some valuable lessons we can learn by looking at hypocrisy, and then do the opposite. There is a technique used in creative thinking workshops called “Anti-Solution” to help overcome mental blocks. It looks at all the ways you can make something fail and then do the opposite.
Jesus gives us lots of opportunity to use a technique like this when he describes hypocrisy and if we are smart, we can learn from this and then do the opposite. Let’s look at three examples and then you can add more in the comments.
1. Following but not Fulfilling the Law
In this section of scripture Jesus upbraids the Pharisees because they followed the letter of the law, but did not fulfill the spirit of the law. Their hypocrisy was evident for their hearts were not right but they had the appearance of looking good. They “complied” with the law but were not “committed” to the law. It filled their heads but not their hearts.
God gave the law to give man insight into his wisdom and to establish a standard for man to live by so that he would have a good quality of life. The Bible says of Jesus that he came to “fulfill the law.” (Matthew 5:17) We are told that under the New Covenant that we shall have the law written on our hearts and minds. (Hebrews 10:16)
Jesus also says that what comes out of a man proceeds from his heart, (Matthew 15:18) that is, we behave and speak in accordance with what we believe and think. So when the Lord writes his law on our hearts and minds it becomes part of who we are. Thus we will act, behave and speak in accordance with God’s law and the law will be “fulfilled” in us as it was in Jesus.
But the Pharisees did not follow the law from the heart. They complied with the law to the most minute degree but did not fulfill the law. Their hypocrisy was about being seen to be good rather than being good. That is, self-righteousness rather than the true righteousness that comes form God. They followed the letter of the law but neglected the spirit of it, which is the love of God and the justice of the law.
2. Seeking Power and Prestige
The Pharisees loved places of honour and the best seats in the synagogue. They were status seekers and loved positions of power. They put their own needs first before the needs of the people they were supposed to minister to as priests of the temple of God. This is hypocrisy for they lined their own pockets at the expense of others and liked to lord it over the people.
But the true servant of God should follow Jesus’ example. He did not seek power or prestige or the finer things of this life for he knew there was a better reward. He sought to be humble and to serve and to rejoice in what was good and right and true rather than feather his own nest.
3. Not Knowing What They Don’t Know and Not Seeking to Find Out
Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, but in their vanity and hypocrisy they don’t even recognise they have a problem. He speaks of them as men who walk over unseen graves and are thus defiled. Under the Law of Moses if someone walked over a grave they were considered unclean for seven days and needed to follow a ritual of cleansing and bathe to become clean again. (Numbers 19:11-19)
So if a grave is unmarked and a person walks over it unknowing, they likewise become unclean without any knowledge of their uncleanness. That is, they don’t know what they don’t know.
A hypocrite is like this for not only don’t they know they have a problem, they are not seeking to find out what they don’t know. They blunder along in ignorance not realising they are doing all manner of things wrong and not seeking to find out the truth.
So to avoid being a hypocrite through ignorance, follow the Lord’s advice. “Seek and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7)
There are many other points of hypocrisy that the Lord made and upbraided the Pharisees over (Matthew 23 is full of other examples). We can learn from the wrong things that the Pharisees as well as anyone else who does wrong and then turn it around to do what is right.
What kinds of wrong thinking or hypocrisy have you come across that you have and the rest of us could learn from? Please add your comments.
(Pictures sourced through stock.xchng supplied by Cecile Graat http://www.gracedesign.nl)